Nav: Home

Beetles changed their diet during the Cretaceous period

March 18, 2020

Like a snapshot, amber preserves bygone worlds. An international team of paleontologists from the University of Bonn has now described four new beetle species in fossilized tree resin from Myanmar, which belong to the Kateretidae family. They still exist today, with only a few species. As well as the about 99 million years old insects, the amber also includes pollen. It seems that the beetles helped the flowering plants to victory, because they contributed to their propagation. In turn, the beetles benefited from the new food source. The results have now been published in the journal "iScience".

The researchers have described the new beetle species using specimens in four amber pieces from Myanmar (previously known as Burma). The pieces are estimated to be 99 million years old and date from the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs were a rich and diverse group. Two of the pieces are in the Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona (Spain), while the other two specimens are kept in the Institute of Geology and Palaeontology in Nanjing (China).

"Although Myanmar surprises us time and again with finds of great scientific importance, amber pieces containing numerous organisms are not often found there," says project leader Dr. David Peris, who comes from Spain and is a postdoc at the Institute for Geosciences at the University of Bonn with an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation's fellowship. He carried out the project with scientists from the USA, Spain, Germany, China and the Czech Republic.

Three of the examined amber pieces contained numerous beetles, while the fourth piece contained only one specimen of this family. Many pollen grains of different groups of seed plants, some of them long extinct, have been preserved with the beetles in the tree resin. Peris: "This close association suggests that the grains were distributed in the viscous lump of resin by the movement of the beetles."

The beetle family still exists today

The Kateretidae are a small family of beetles with less than 100 described modern species that today live in South America and other temperate and subtropical regions. The species of this family feed on pollen and flower parts. Due to their dietary habits, they are nowadays regarded as pollinators of flowering plants (angiosperms). But in the middle Cretaceous period their rapid development had just begun. Previously, the Earth was colonized by gymnosperms, literally meaning "naked seeds", which also includes our conifers. "The most important aspect of this study is that the pollen grains in three of the amber pieces do not belong to flowering plants," says Peris. The pollen grains on the beetle of the fourth piece of amber, however, come from a water lily, a group of very primitive angiosperms that emerged at an early stage.

Living together for mutual benefit

There are other pollinating insects in amber, but almost all of them concern gymnosperms. When flowering plants (angiosperms) began their early development, they represented a new resource that was used by the Kateretidae. The beetles adapted quickly and formed a mutually beneficial symbiosis: The flowering plants served the beetles as a food source and these animals contributed to the propagation of the new angiosperms by pollination.

In earlier studies it was speculated that the beetles might belong to the insect groups that pollinated the earliest flowers. Some of these animals had developed the ability to pollinate gymnosperms well before the appearance of angiosperms. "Our study supports this hypothesis of significant host plant relocation, as there are no Kateretidae associated with gymnosperms today," says Peris. Adapting to the new resource has proven to be an evolutionary advantage.
-end-
Publication: Peris, David; Labandeira, Conrad C.; Barrón, Eduardo; Delclòs, Xavier; Rust, Jes; and Wang, Bo: Generalist pollen-feeding beetles during the mid-Cretaceous, iScience, DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.3492117

Media contact:

Dr. David Peris
Institute for Geosciences
University of Bonn
Tel. +49-(0)228-734682
E-mail: daperce@gmail.com

Prof. Dr. Jes Rust
Institute for Geosciences
University of Bonn
Tel. +49-(0)228-734842
E-Mail: jrust@uni-bonn.de

University of Bonn

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Nina
Producer Tracie Hunte stumbled into a duet between Nina Simone and the sounds of protest outside her apartment. Then she discovered a performance by Nina on April 7, 1968 - three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tracie talks about what Nina's music, born during another time when our country was facing questions that seemed to have no answer, meant then and why it still resonates today.  Listen to Nina's brother, Samuel Waymon, talk about that April 7th concert here.