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A fossil is flying with a very long proboscis throwing light on the origins of insect pollinators

A fossil is flying with a very long proboscis throwing light on the origins of insect pollinators

A long-lived flight of the Jurassic of Central Asia, reported by Russian baleontologists, gives new evidence that insects have started serving as pollinators long before the arrival of flowering plants. This test has proboscis twice the length of the body, and this flight precedes the first species by about 40-45 million years. This suggests that insect pollination has begun to evolve in conjunction with ancient champnos. The results of the study are published at Gondwana Research.

Archocyrtus kovalevi the Late Jurassic rocks in South Kazakhstan contain only a single compression fossil. The fossil, estimated to be around 160 million years ago, first came to prominence in 1996, but its original description contained no photographs. It's not surprising that no one thought at first that these feathers had developed proboscis of proportions as early in time. Although he had not seen the specimen himself, skeptics said that the long structure near the body of the fly was not an actual proboscis, but that it was a piece of plant or other object that was wandering. As a result, a remarkable perception has been missed for more than 20 years.

To realize the truth about the enigmatic fossil, palaeontologists from the Paleontological Institute Borissiak (Moscow) re-contaminated it using modern microscopic techniques and element distribution analysis. This enabled them to confirm the presence of a long proboscis, which has a food canal that can be easily seen and is exactly the same as everyone living in long-proboscid flying in every other way. Measuring 12mm long, mouths of A. kovalevi 1.8 times longer than the body. This means that these small insects are first rank among all the Mesozoic insects when having the longest proboscis compared to the size of the body.

A. kovalevi is the earliest fossil record of an existing Acroceridae family, or small insects. Nowadays, there are a few species of small insects with proboscis longer than the body found in America and South Africa. The current members of Acroceridae use their overriding proboscis to remove nectar from long tubular flowers, acting as pollinators in the process. The unusual thing is that A. kovalevi exists when a single flower did not flower. The first flowering plants emerged much later, in the Early Cretaceous, and at first they had small, infrequent flowers. So what was the purpose of proboscis A. kovalevi?

"There is a well-known story about Charles Darwin, who famously predicted that a pollinator moth with a long proboscis after seeing a deep nectar of Madagascar orchid. We have to argue the other way and come to the collection of; The old time-marked we see to a plant that could have pollinated it ”, says Alexander Khramov, the first author of the study and senior researcher at the Paleontological Institute of Borissiak.

Fortunately, researchers did not need to go too far in guessing them. Dozens of cones of the plant were collected from the name of Williamsoniella karataviensis from the same strata with the fly. This plant belongs to Bennettitales, an extinct group of the Mesoosic gymnospermics, many of which had reproductive, flower-like organs, and on this basis scientists have suspected that they have been pollinated. by insects. W. karataviensis is perfect for this picture. It has bisexual cones containing twelve fish-like bracts (leaves have been adapted) with their buoys over the pillars (seed predecessors). Like modern Gnetales, a relict group of gymnosperms could have pollinated by insects, including insects, fears W. karataviensis had produced sweet pollinator drops.

The cone depth of W. karataviensis is roughly equivalent to the proboscis length of A. kovalevi, so pieces of the puzzle come together: small headaches first evolved a very long proboscis to access the hidden sugars secretions the cones of ancient gymnosperms. They are very likely to have done pollination in exchange for a sweet prize. It follows that the base of co-existence of pollination between plants and insects has been set long before the first correct flowers adorn the Earth. When the Mesoosic gymnospermians left the stage, Acroceridae and some long-proboscid insects were probably offering their pollination services to new flowering plants.


This story was published on: 2019-04-01. To connect to the author, please use the contact details in the article.


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