Researchers have found a beetle preserved in Burmese amber along with grains of cycad pollen. The beetle, Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus, lived about 99 million years ago at the time of dinosaurs. Beetles are the most important pollinators in the world and new evidences suggest that they were pollinating plants millions of years ago.
ALSO READ | Humanoid Justin gearing up for 'realistic potential exploration' of Mars
The ancient beetle was discovered in the town of Tanai in northern Myanmar. It became stuck in sticky tree sap that later turned into amber. The large jaws of the beetle with cavity indicated that the insect was a pollinator of cycads. When researchers placed the fossil under the microscope, they found several clumps of tiny pollen grains inside amber. The grains revealed that the beetle was carrying cycad pollen just before it died.
“Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the age of dinosaurs," said Chenyang Cai from the University of Bristol. "Our findings indicate a probable ancient origin of beetle pollination of cycads at least in the early Jurassic era, long before angiosperm dominance and the radiation of flowering-plant pollinators, such as bees, later in the Cretaceous.” he said.
ALSO READ | Aditya-L1 Mission to Sun: ISRO’s reply to NASA’S Parker Solar Probe
While beetles are known to pollinate plants, no conclusive fossil evidence has ever been recovered showing them carrying cycad. Ancient beetles are very rare found trapped in amber. It is the first time that researchers have found an ancient beetle preserved in a piece of amber with cycad pollen.