Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

100-million-year-old scale insect practiced brood care

31.03.2015

Scientists at the University of Bonn, together with colleagues from China, UK and Poland, have described the oldest evidence of brood care in insects: it is in a female scale insect with her young that is encased in amber as a fossil. The approximately100-million-year-old "snapshot" from the Earth's history shows the six millimetre long tiny insect with a wax cocoon, which protected the eggs from predators and drying out plus associated young nymphs. The researchers are now presenting their results in the respected journal eLIFE.

The small female insect with the waxy cocoon or reticulum is clearly visible in the brownish translucent amber. The wax cover protected both the scale insect and her approximately 60 eggs from predators and from drying out. In contrast to male scale insects, the female has no wings and is specialized to suck on leaves and provide for her offspring.


Wathondara kotejai: The female ensign scale (Ortheziidae) carries an egg sac formed out of wax plated on the the ventral side.

Photo: Dr. Bo Wang


Reconstruction of Wathondara kotejai.

Graphic: Dr. Bo Wang

"Fossils of fragile female scale insects are extremely rare", says Chinese paleontologist Dr. Bo Wang, who as a fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation researching at the Steinmann Institute of the University of Bonn. "What is unique here is the age of the discovery: 100-million-year-old evidence of brood care among insects has not been found until now." The age of the site of the discovery was determined using the radiometric uranium-lead dating method. In addition to the insect, its eggs and the waxy cover, six young insects are also preserved in this "snapshot" of the Earth's history captured in amber.

The fossil is named after a Buddhist goddess

Dr. Wang used his good contact with collectors in northern Myanmar to find this extraordinarily rare amber inclusion. The international team of scientists gave the 100-million-year-old scale insect the name "Wathondara kotejai" – after the Buddhist earth goddess Wathondara and the Polish entomologist Jan Koteja.

That the female scale insect was preserved in amber was a very rare occurrence, explains Associate Professor and co-author Dr. Torsten Wappler of the Steinmann Institute at the University of Bonn. Usually, it is the male scale insects that are encased by the resin when they stop on the trunks or branches of trees. In this case, resin probably dripped from a branch onto a leaf which enclosed the female scale insect with her cocoon, eggs and nymphs.

Then the resin fossilized. The scientists cut and polish the amber until only a thin layer remained over the enclosed insect. Like looking through a window, the researchers were then able to take three-dimensional, high-resolution photographs of this witness of the past under the microscope.

Brood care increases the survival chances of the offspring

"With brood care, the scale insect increases the survival chances of its offspring", says Dr. Wappler. Once the young scale insect is far enough along in its development, it slips out of the protective wax coating and looks for a new plant where to suck its high-sugar and high-energy sap. Even today, common scale insects have a wax cocoon. Their wax gland is found on the hind end. While turning in circles, they discharge the secretion. The result is a round structure with grooves. "The wax case then looks sort of like a record album from the top", says the paleontologist with a grin. If the animal grows, it moults and discharges wax again. Skin and wax layers therefore alternate in the cocoon.

Amber as a window to the past

From comparing modern scale insects with the amber discovery, the paleontologists concludes that the lifestyle and reproductive behaviour of these insects around 100 million years ago was already quite similar to the current forms. "Inclusions in amber are a unique opportunity to look at life in the past", explains Dr. Wappler. Insects in fossilized resin are usually very well preserved, whereas articulated animals embedded in sediment either do not remain intact at all or are often crushed or crimped by the pressure of the weight of the overlying layers. "That is why the amber discovery of Wathondara kotejai is unique", the scientists at the University of Bonn are convinced.

Publication: Brood Care in a 100-million-year-old scale insect, Journal eLIFE; DOI: 10.7554/eLife.05447.001
Media Contact:

Dr. Bo Wang
Steinmann-Institut der Universität Bonn
Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology
Chinese Academy of Sciences (Nanjing/China)
Tel. 0228/734682
E-Mail: savantwang@gmail.com

Associate Professor Dr. Torsten Wappler
Steinmann-Institut der Universität Bonn
Tel. 0228/734682
E-Mail: twappler@uni-bonn.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.05447.001 Publication online

Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-bonn.de/

Further reports about: Chinese Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität cocoon eggs female insect offspring reproductive

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>