Tech UPTechnologyPrehistoric cockroaches found preserved in amber

Prehistoric cockroaches found preserved in amber

Cockroaches, one of the toughest creatures on the planet (tardigrades win by a landslide), may be among the species that will outlive us all. But perhaps most intriguing of all is his unusual past. An international team of scientists has discovered a 99-million-year-old pair of cockroaches that represent the oldest known animals that unambiguously adapted to cave life (troglomorphic organisms), according to a study published in the journal Gondwana Research.

Thus, this pair of cockroaches is rewriting the early history of cave life.

The cockroaches, which are perfectly preserved in amber , have been discovered in a mine in Myanmar’s Hukawng Valley – of more than a hundred tons of amber – and are the only creatures adapted to darkness known from the Cretaceous period ; that is, while they sneaked through the crevices of the caves, the Tyrannosaurus rex and other dinosaurs walked the Earth.

Despite today’s multiple examples of cave-dwelling insects, these specimens, from two distinct and related species, are the oldest animals ever found with these traits.

“The caves lack unequivocal fossils before the Cenozoic (which began about 65 million years ago),” the authors clarify, highlighting the importance of the find.

The oldest cave animal

The two cockroach specimens have been given the names Crenocticola svadba and Mulleriblattina bowangi and, according to experts, have many characteristics common to modern cave-dwelling cockroaches, including small eyes and small wings attached to bodies of the same size , but are the oldest that possess these traits. Researchers believe they fed on dinosaur guano (much like modern cockroaches feed on bat and bird droppings).

“Cave environments are well suited for the fossilization of bones and coprolites [or fossilized feces] and the fossil record of cave mammals includes rodents, ungulates, marsupials, felines, hyenids, canids, primates and humans,” the authors explain. “There is no relevant fossil record of any troglomorphic fauna before the K / Pg Limit -Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction- with the exception of the present find .”

These two incredibly well-preserved species are likely descendants of a common ancestor from the early Cretaceous, before continental drift separated their homes on the supercontinent Gondwana.

As for how the fossilized cockroaches ended up in amber, scientists aren’t entirely sure. One of the theories that they shuffle is that the resin could have dripped from the roots of the trees into the caves of the cockroaches, trapping them forever.

Did these species survive the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs ? This is what scientists will now try to find out. Maybe the jokes about cockroaches surviving an apocalypse are truer than we thought.

 

Referencia: Hemen Sendi et al. Nocticolid cockroaches are the only known dinosaur age cave survivors, Gondwana Research (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.gr.2020.01.002 / VRŠANSKÝ, P. & BECHLY, G. (2015): New predatory cockroaches (Insecta: Blattaria: Manipulatoridae fam.n.) from the Upper Cretaceous Myanmar amber. – Geologica Carphatica, 66(2): xx-yy (early view: DOI: 10.1515/geoca-2015-0015 ). PDF: http://www.bernstein.naturkundemuseum-bw.de/odonata/Vrsansky+Bechly_2015.pdf

 

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