Fossil Insect’s Camouflage Tricks Scientists
by Charles Choi
A fossilized scorpionfly that apparently mimicked the leaves of an ancient ginkgo-like tree has just been unearthed, researchers say. The finding adds to evidence that this form of camouflage is very ancient, the scientists added.
More than 100 years ago, scientists began noticing extraordinary resemblances between insects and plants in the fossil record, such as those between certain roaches and the leaflets of particular seed ferns. Such mimicry, also seen in living animals, likely helps protect creatures from predators, or might help them sneak up on prey.
Now paleoentomologist Dong Ren at Capital Normal University in Beijing and his colleagues have discovered another such plant mimic in northeastern China’s Inner Mongolia region.
The 165-million-year-old insect in question is a species of scorpionfly, a group that gets its name from the insects’ enlarged male genitals that resemble scorpion stingers. Specifically, the fossil, which was about 1.5 inches (38.5 millimeters) long, is a type of scorpionfly known as a hangingfly, which often hangs from surfaces waiting to snag prey…
(read more: Live Science)
(images: T - Chen Wang of Capital Normal University in Beijing, PNAS; B - Yongjie Wang et al., PNAS)