Trapped in 99-Million-Year-Old Amber, a Beetle With Pilfered Pollen


Pollinators bring to mind flowering plants.

The distribution of related beetle cycad pollinators supports the idea that the boganiid beetle was an ancient first pollinator of cycads and that cycads were the first insect-pollinated plant.

"Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the Age of Cycads and Dinosaurs", said study lead author Chenyang Cai, a paleontologist from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

A dorsal view of the mid-Cretaceous beetle Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus, including the mandibular cavities it likely used for pollination.

"It is remarkable several aggregations of exquisitely preserved pollen grains are located along the left side of the fossil beetle and with two pollen grains close to the head", said Dr. Cai in comments obtained by the Daily Mail.

The remains of a 99-million-year old beetle have been discovered, perfectly preserved in amber, fossilized resin that originates from the bark of a tree. Liqin Li, an expert in ancient pollen at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, later confirmed that the pollen grains belonged to a cycad. He's been looking for them for the last five years. If this is true, beetles may have been pollinating gymnosperms for over 100 million years before the bees and the butterflies even started pollinating angiosperms.

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Another incredible discovery in amber from Myanmar - beetle, epilepsy the cycads before the death of dinosaurs and the emergence of flowering plants.

Found in northern Myanmar's Kachin State, this chunk of 99-million-year-old Cretaceous amber contains a beetle with bits of pollen around it.

In the study, the authors also take a dive into the boganiid beetle's family tree.

This suggested the fossilised beetle belonged to a sister group to the Australian Paracucujus, which pollinates the relic cycad Macrozamia riedlei today. This discovery suggests an ancient origin for beetle pollination of cycads long before the rise of flowering plants. These pollens point out to the existence of the earlier insect-pollinated plant species.

The findings together with the distribution of modern boganiid beetles lead him to suspect that similar beetle pollinators of cycads are yet to be found.

The fossil represents the earliest definitive fossil evidence for cycad-insect interactions, and illuminates the ancient history of the establishment of complex entomophily in cycads.