Coloured fossil beetle discovery


A 600,000-year-old leaf beetle, Plateumaris sp., is shown as it was recovered after being preserved in a slightly acidic and watery environment. Photo by Gengo TanakaBy Jennifer Viegas:

Beetle’s Brilliant Hue Preserved After 600,000 Years

The blue-green leaf beetle remains may be the oldest example of vivid color preserved on a prehistoric creature

Mon Feb 22, 2010 03:56 AM ET

THE GIST:

* Scientists have found a 600,000-year-old leaf beetle with its original bright colors preserved.
* The ancient beetle represents only one of two known fossils from early periods that retain substantial color molecules.
* Like pickles in vinegar, slightly acidic environments preserve specimens well over time.

Ancient history often appears black and white, since artifacts, fossils and other remains usually lose their color over time. But researchers have just found an iridescent blue-green bug that looks like it did 600,000 years ago when it was alive.

The leaf beetle, Plateumaris sp., is one of just two such advanced age insect fossils that retain substantial original color molecules. Another beetle, dating to 50 million years ago, also appears to have sported the same hues, but the color preservation is better in this middle Pleistocene specimen, project leader Gengo Tanaka told Discovery News.

The male bug, along with other “exceptionally well-preserved insect fossils,” was recently excavated from the Hirabaru Formation in Kyushu, Japan. The male’s flash was for females since its “structural color would be used in mating displays,” said Tanaka, a researcher at Japan’s Gunma Museum of Natural History.

He added that its “color changed from green to dark blue by changing the angle of incident light.”

4 thoughts on “Coloured fossil beetle discovery

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