This world we understand today would be almost impossible without fossil beautiful and vibrant landscapes made by the plant life. There are many the flowering plants, also known as angiosperms. They are the largest and abundant of all plants comprising. More than the 80 percent of all recognized species, and that includes all of our main food plants.
However, the world wasn’t always this way. There was a time in which plants were almost exclusively green. In the age of dinosaurs, the planet was bursting into blossoms in a spectacular way.
The flowers in our world were a source of vibrant colors and radiance. But they also turned food chains and pushed out their non-flowering counterparts. It is not clear how ecosystems responded to the sudden blooming. A tiny beetle that preserved in amber for over 99 million years provides a insight into. How insects initially began to feed themselves with a new and vibrant platter of plants.
First Flowers Fossil
There are a variety of debates over how angiosperms came into existence but there is no doubt. That they first developed a diversity during the Early Cretaceous, around 125 million years ago. The theory is that exploding explosion of angiosperms which displace gymnosperms. Which the traditional flowers-less top of the line in the world of plants caused a massive disruption in terrestrial ecosystems. It also altered the food chain on every level, from herbivores to the predators.
The biggest remaining gymnosperms is the conifers, which include pines and Cypresses. Many gymnosperms pollinated with wind, however some produce pollination drops containing sugar like fern-like cycads which have a long-standing connection with the beetles. Flowering angiosperms were able to outdo most gymnosperms due to their vibrant and fragrant galleries that promoted their nectar to draw pollinators.
We know little about the history of first angiosperms. The majority of Cretaceous blooms found from burned remains that transformed into charcoal, which makes reconstructions of what they looked like very rare and challenging. Scientists have also looked at living angiosperms to find out what the first flower in the world could look like.
These pollinators who are responsible for the flowers remain hidden in a another level of mystery. Today, more than 80 percent of angiosperms rely on insects, including butterflies and bees, to pollinate their flowers. These groups were not present or were not distinct during the Cretaceous. Therefore, who were the first to pollinate angiosperms?
Jurassic Pollinators Fossil
A lot of insects shared mutual relationships with plants prior to the Cretaceous. A few Jurassic scorpionflies were able to have long mouthparts that were ideal to pollinate gymnosperms. Also, fortuitous fossils discovered in Early Cretaceous amber in Spain have also revealed thrips , tiny, slim insects connected to the pollen of gymnosperms.
What is the connection between the first angiosperms and the insect pollinators they attract? In the field of Paleontology, awe-inspiring inquiries require extraordinary fossils and amber is the one that is often the source of these. Amber is the ancient resin trees that grew over thousands of years and preserved the content with lifelike accuracy.
Pieces of insects and plant material in the jars provide a unique glimpse into the old ecosystems. Scientists have accumulated a unique collection of more than 22,000 amber pieces found in northern Myanmar discovered in the year 2016. The amber dated to approximately 100 million years back, in the golden period of angiosperm diversification and a treasure trove of diverse insect, plant and occasionally dinosaur remains.
As paleontologists who work using amber, we required to separate fragments, determine their contents, and then cut them to provide an unobstructed view of the inside of the fossil at times, even to the size of the microscope slide. In this adventure reminiscent of Jurassic Park it necessary to get the job performed slowly, using the utmost accuracy.
The amber was a laborious process that began to bear fruit. In the latter half of 2019 the amber of northern Myanmar produced a tumbling flower beetle (Mordellidae) with pollen grains from angiosperms that attached on its bodies. It then followed by the discovery of flower beetles with short wings connected to eudicot pollen that is similar to the one produced by water lilies, an early diverging angiosperm group. Additional discoveries included an old wasp, which also connected with angiosperm pollen.
The Last Meal Fossil
Our study was focused on a flower beetle with a short-winged known as Pelretes vivificus, which the name that the new fossil was identified. It’s barely one millimeter in length, a single trace in the bright amber orange.
When we examined the matter further we found that the beetle was linked to clusters of pollen grains. Some of them attached to its body, and others preserved in fossilized pellets of faeces (coprolites). The coprolites provide evidence of the last meal of the beetle which provides an unique piece of evidence to show that beetles did indeed eat pollen, and just arranged through random chance.
To identify the pollens was identified, we made use of a range from high tech microscopes. The pollen was found to be from the fossil Tricolpopollenites. The Tricolpopollenites group is thought to be part of the eudicots. A living group of angiosperms which includes willows, violets , and coca plants. This is what makes Pelretes an example of one of the first pollinators. Angiosperms found in fossil records and the beetle that was the first to show the direct evidence of feeding on pollen.
The tiny beetle has demonstrated that shortly after their rise to fame. Early flowering plants had already were consuming their pollen by insects. We know now that the connection between angiosperms and flower beetles is truly long-lasting. It has been in place for at least 99 million years at the time when the planet was bursting with vibrant flowers.