Another tale set in amber

Let’s face it, anything in amber looks pretty cool. The bonus is that they often have an important story to tell.

In the case of this 99-million-year-old tumbling flower beetle (Angimordella burmitina), researchers suggest it provides important evidence of insect pollination of flowering plants. 

It is thought such pollination was happening during the Cretaceous Period (145 to 66 million years ago) when flowering plants rapidly diversified, but direct evidence only dates to the Middle Eocene, around 48-45 million years ago. Until now. 

A. Burmitina, recovered from a mine in northern Myanmar, exhibits a suite of characteristics suggesting its role as a pollinator, says a research team led by Bo Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and David Dilcher from Indiana University, US.

It has a curved, compressed, and wedge-shaped body with a declined head that likely facilitated feeding inside flowers; well-developed hind legs to move between flowers; fine hairs on the thorax and abdomen whose height and spacing are apt for holding and transporting pollen; and modified mouthparts seemingly tailored for collecting and likely transporting pollen. 

In addition, the beetle’s thorax and abdomen were dusted with tricolpate pollen, a defining feature of the eudicot group of flowering plants. 

The findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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