Broken parts of the minuscule genitals of a small Cretaceous insect were recently put back together after spending more than a decade.
Researchers have described a new species of killer bug dating fossils dating from about 50 million years ago to a remarkably preserved fossil. At the time of the discovery of the fossil in Colorado in 2006, it was split in between; When there were two cracks around the rock, each half was half of the insect’s body. The split was almost perfect, but a small structure called the pygophore – the genital capsule of a male insect about the size of a rice grain, was broken in such a way that its original shape was unclear, scientists revealed in a statement.
A fossil trader sold both pieces separately to buyers. But when the researchers united the fossil parts and analyzed them together, their overall view of the genitals enabled them to identify the bug as a new species, they reported in a new study.
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The killer insects are highly successful predatory insects with about 7,000 recognized species, but only 50 known fossils, said lead study author Daniel Swanson, a graduate student in entomology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champcash (UIUC).
“It speaks for the impossibility of being just a fossil, let alone at this age, it gives a lot of information,” Swanson said in the statement. He and his colleagues published their findings on Monday (January 19) in the magazine Papers in Palaeontology.
He dubbed the new species Epihelophones Danjudi; The species name remembers fossil collector Dan Judd, “in honor of his grace to the Illinois Natural History Survey Palaeontology Collection’s counterpart specimen,” the researchers wrote. Researchers point out that “insect” is a Latin word for the genus, “old,” and “fontes”, which is Latin for “murderer” or “killer”.
“Almost unheard of”
The insect, which measured 0.5 inches (12.4 millimeters) in length, had a long and slender body in its legs and alternating light and dark bands. Scientists reported that female killer worms are generally larger than males, so it is likely that females of this species are larger than this specimen. Next to one of the legs is a small beetle which fossils at the same time; Although the killer bug can prey on the beetle, it is unknown if it was the victim of a large insect pest attack, according to a special beetle study.
The pygophore at the bottom of the abdomen is not more than 0.1 inch (3.1 mm) long. Scientists reported that unique features develop quickly in the male genitalia, so they are often used to distinguish between closely related species of killer insects.
However, this is not the oldest fossil evidence of genitals. This difference is related to a type of arachnid from a fossil, called a harvester (or daddy longles), dating from about 400 million to 412 million years ago. Devonian period (416 million to 358 million years ago).
Two fossil harvesters, one male and one female, were discovered along with their respective genitalia, which is now in Scotland. In fossils, paleontologists can see a penis in male and an oval, or egg-laying structure, in female, researchers reported in the magazine in 2003 Paleontology.
“Amber has many fossil insects with genitalia as old as the Cretaceous period,” said co-author Sam Hades, a paleontologist of the Illinois Natural History Survey of UIUC. In one memorable example, a 41 million-year-old chunk of amber not only protected the genitals of a pair of flies, but also the moment they were using their naughty bits, capturing insects in the act of mating Thea, Live Science previously reported.
However, high-quality preservation of intact insect genitalia in the reef in the form of killer bug fossils “is almost unheard of,” the chiefs said.
Originally published on Live Science.