Sunday , May 16 2021

An unusual fossil reveals the last meal of a prehistoric pollinator

Addition of eudicot pollen and pollen-containing coprolites associated with Pelretes vivificus. a, a piece of amber with P. vivificus showing coprolites and one combination of pollen. details of pollen in visible light (d) and confocal laser scanning microscopy (b, c, e). Scale bars: 1 mm (a), 50 μm (b, e), 100 μm (c, d).
Chenyang Cai, Yanzhe Fu and Yitong Su

Ecological reconstruction of Pelretes vivificus angiosperm flowers in Burmese amber forest (~ 99 Ma).
Mr. Jie Sun’s artwork

On the back, a view of Pelretes vivificus, a short-winged chalk flower (Kateretidae) from Burmese amber (~ 99 Ma). Scale: 200 μm.
Chenyang Cai, Yanzhe Fu and Yitong Su

The yellow fossil of the chalk’s hard shell has brought light to one of the earliest pollinators of flowering plants.

The animal’s remains were revealed by researchers at Bristol University and the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology (NIGPAS) who were able to study its fossil feces, which consisted exclusively of pollen.

In addition to being a visitor to angiosperms — flowering plants — scientists now have convincing evidence that a new fossil called Pelretes vivificus also fed its pollen. Details of this finding have been published today in Nature Plants.

“The beetle is associated with pollen clusters, suggesting that short-winged flower beetles visited the sperm in the junction. Some aspects of the beetle’s anatomy, such as the hairy belly, are also pollination-related adaptations,” said Professor Chenyang Cai, paleontologist at

Erik Tihelka, an entomologist and paleontologist at the School of Geography, added: We know, therefore, that Pelretes visited angiosperms to feed on pollen, a finding that provides a direct link between early flowering plants and their insect visitors, showing that these insect fossils were not only accidentally preserved along with pollen, but that there was a real biological link between the two. “

Although pollinators such as bees and butterflies today provide crucial ecosystem services, little is known about the origins of the close link between flowers and insects.

Cretaceous amber fossils provide an important source of evidence for understanding the biology of early embryonic sperm before they became the dominant plant group on earth. Amber is a fossil resin from ancient trees that often inadvertently traps insects and other small organisms, preserving them with life-like loyalty.

“Farmers who want to protect their orchards can put sticky traps on trees to control insects. Now imagine if your only view of the ancient ecosystem would be such sticky traps and if you should reconstruct all of its ecological interactions solely on the basis of this source of evidence. This is the challenge that chiropractors face yellow, ”says Tihelka. “Fortunately, the amber trap from northern Myanmar is one of the known riches of fossil amber. In addition to the unprecedented abundance of fossil insects, yellow comes from the Middle Cretaceous, just as garlic rose, ”Tihelka said.

Two hundred million years ago, the world was as green as it is today, and it has grown from dense vegetation. But it wasn’t that colorful – there were no flowers. Flowering plants, which now make up more than 80% of all plant species, did not begin to diversify until the Cretaceous, about 125 million years ago. Some scientists have considered the great evolutionary success of arteries in their interrelationships with insect pollinators, but there has been little fossil evidence of Cretaceous pollinators so far.

The Pelretes vivificus beetle lived in the Burmese amber rainforest about 98 million years ago. Its closest relatives are the short-winged flowering beetle (Kateretidae), which now occurs in Australia and which visits a wide variety of flowers and feeds on pollen.

“Pollen associated with the beetle can be assigned to the fossil genus Tricolpopollenites. This group includes eudicotes, a group of live angiosperm that includes Malpighiales and Ericales orders, ”says Dr. Liqin Li of NIGPAS fossil pollen experts who participated in the study.

This shows that the pollinators took advantage of the early angiosperms soon after their initial diversification and by mid-chalice visited a wide range of groups.

Public publication. This material originates from the original organization and may be current in nature, modified for clarity, style, and length. See the whole here.

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