PREHISTORIC insects trapped in amber for 99million years have revealed stunning details about creatures from that time period.
A recent study has been using the trapped bugs to peer into the world of ancient colours.
These insects are 99million-years-old[/caption]
It’s hard for scientists to try and work out what prehistoric creatures would have looked like in detail because most fossils and bones don’t provide us with many clues.
Pan Yanhong from the Chinese Academy of Science said: “The type of colour preserved in the amber fossils is called structural colour.
“It is caused by microscopic structure of the animal’s surface.
“The surface nanostructure scatters light of specific wavelengths and produces very intense colours.
Studying the bugs helps build an understanding of what creatures looked like in the past[/caption]
“This mechanism is responsible for many of the colours we know from our everyday lives.”
You may have observed structural colour yourself making peacock feathers and butterfly scales look shiny.
Researchers collected 35 amber specimens containing brightly coloured bugs for the recent project.
Most of the insects are wasps.
The cuckoo wasps in the amber, the greenish looking insect in the top right corner of the above image, are remarkably similar in colour to today’s cuckoo wasps.
The researchers wrote: “The colour displayed by fossils can often be misleading because fine nanostructures responsible for coloration can be altered during fossilisation.
“However, the original colour of fossils can be reconstructed using theoretical modelling.
“The calculated reflectance peaks match the observed metallic bluish-green coloration of the mesopleuron of our studied wasp, confirming that extremely fine nanostructures can be preserved in Mesozoic amber.”
The insects were found in Burmese amber, which the researchers found was good at preserving the exoskeletons and their nanostructures.
This study has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
A timeline of life on Earth
The history of the planet in years…
- 4.6billion years ago – the origin of Earth
- 3.8billion years ago – first life appears on Earth
- 2.1billion years ago – lifeforms made up of multiple cells evolve
- 1.5billion years ago – eukaryotes, which are cells that contain a nucleus inside of their membranes, emerge
- 550million years ago – first arthropods evolve
- 530million years ago – first fish appear
- 470million years ago – first land plants appear
- 380million years ago – forests emerge on Earth
- 370million years ago – first amphibians emerge from the water onto land
- 320million years ago – earliest reptiles evolve
- 230million years ago – dinosaurs evolve
- 200million years ago – mammals appear
- 150million years ago – earliest birds evolve
- 130million years ago – first flowering plants
- 100million years ago – earliest bees
- 55million years ago – hares and rabbits appear
- 30million years ago – first cats evolve
- 20million years ago – great apes evolve
- 7million years ago –first human ancestors appear
- 2million years ago – Homo erectus appears
- 300,000 years ago – Homo sapiens evolves
- 50,000 years ago – Eurasia and Oceania colonised
- 40,000 years ago – Neandethal extinction
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In other news, “monster penguins” thought to have lived in New Zealand 62 million years ago had doppelgängers roaming the US.
Fossilised footprints found in South Korea have been attributed to an ancient 13 foot crocodile that walked on two legs.
And, a skeleton of a 300,000-year-old elephant with giant tusks has been unearthed in Germany.
What do you think of these ancient insects? Let us know in the comments…
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