Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

For Ever and Ever: When the Wedding Flight Never Ends

07.01.2011
Entomologists of University Jena are the first to reconstruct a fossil insect completely in 3D

Its stay on this planet was actually meant to be a very short one. Male twisted-wing parasites (Strepsiptera) usually have a life span of only few hours. However, accidentally a specimen of Mengea tertiara, about the size of an aphid, became preserved for ‘eternity’: during its wedding flight about 42 million years ago it was caught in a drop of tree resin and subsequently almost perfectly conserved in a piece of amber.

PD Dr. Hans Pohl of Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) calls this “a very exceptional stroke of luck.” Together with colleagues from Jena, Hamburg and New York, the insect researcher at the Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology with Phyletic Museum has now ‘resurrected’ the fossil insect: using high resolution micro-computer tomography (micro-CT) the anatomy of an extinct insect was completely reconstructed three-dimensionally for the first time.

The researchers did not only get a detailed and realistic impression of the external form of the extinct insect. “The micro-CT also allows us to look into the interior”, Dr. Pohl stresses. Whereas the inner organs were destroyed during the process of petrification under high pressure, internal soft tissues are occasionally largely preserved in amber fossils.

About 80 percent of the inner tissues of the fossilized twisted-wing parasite were exceptionally well preserved, as revealed by the recent evaluation of the micro-CT data. Musculature, nervous system, sense organs, digestive and reproductive systems were displayed to the Jena scientists like an open book. With 3D-glasses the insect can be viewed in three dimensions. Only a few mouse clicks are needed to turn it around or to produce virtual sections.

“This leads to important insights in the phylogeny and evolution of these insects”, Professor Dr. Rolf Beutel of the University Jena explains. Until today the placement of Strepsiptera in the phylogenetic tree of insects remained an enigma. “The females of these strange animals are almost always endoparasitic, i. e. live inside their hosts”, Beutel continues. However, according to Beutel, the females of the analyzed species must have been free living. This conclusion is based on the simple shape of the external genitalia of the Mengea male. The males of species with females parasitizing in winged insects always have an anchor-shaped penis. “This firmly connects the males with the females, which are embedded in fast moving hosts such as for instance plant hoppers or bees.“ This specific docking mechanism is clearly missing in Mengea.

Moreover, the Jena research team could confirm the position of the extinct Mengea within the evolutionary tree. “These are ancestral predecessors of strepsipteran species existing today”, says Dr. Pohl. Finding females and copulating was the only mission of the males during their extremely short life span. ”This is clearly reflected by their anatomy”, says the insect researcher. Highly efficient antennal sense organs and ‘raspberry eyes’ help to track the female. The flight apparatus and the genitalia were particularly well developed. In contrast to this, the mouth parts and the digestive tract are distinctly reduced compared to other insects. “The males were not able to ingest food, at least not in solid form”, Professor Beutel concludes. It is possible that the intestine was filled with air, which improves the flying capacity of these tiny insects.

The Jena researchers will scan more amber insects in the near future. “This method has an enormous potential”, Dr. Pohl says confidently. It not only allows a very detailed study of external and internal structures but is also non- destructive, in contrast to other techniques. Both aspects combined will guarantee an immense progress in the investigation of fossil and extant insects. Like Mengea other fossils will be preserved for critical investigations and re-evaluations of future scientists.

Contact Details:
PD Dr. Hans Pohl
Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology with Phyletic Museum
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Erbertstr. 1
D-07743 Jena
Phone: +49 3641 949156
Email: hans.pohl[at]uni-jena.de

Ute Schönfelder | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-jena.de/en/start_en.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos
30.03.2017 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

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

'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

An LED-based device for imaging radiation induced skin damage

30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>