New study reveals about evolution of proboscis in butterflies

Normally, the butterflies use their tongue like proboscis. One can think that that proboscis comes after the flower plants but the new study has given very strange fact about the origin of proboscis- featured butterflies. As per the new study, these types of butterflies were around there much before flowering plants.

Well, the source behind this finding is the delicate relics which is discovered from a rock in northern Germany. They found some fragments of insects scales the contained butterfly and moth wings, bodies, and legs using a powerful microscope. Among those scales, some scales were solid and decorated with a herringbone pattern.

In the year 2012, Paul K. Strother of Boston College, an expert in prehistoric pollen and spores, Bas van de Schootbrugge, a fellow microfossil paleontologist dissolved cores dating to the early Jurassic periods by exposing the material by acid. Then they discovered some fossilized organic material. The fossilized organic material contained infinitesimally tiny scales which were similar to butterfly scales.

“What we found is that there were moths and butterflies with a proboscis that were already around way before there is evidence of flowering plants,” said Timo van Eldijk, a researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and an author of the new stud. The new study has been published in journal Science Advances.

Van Eldijk conducted a study on 70 scales that were discovered from the stone and then examine the structure of those 70 scales.  He detected that among 70 scales some scales from around 200 million years ago. Glossata spices are the only butterflies and moths which all have proboscises. But flowering plants began developing only about 140 million to 160 million years ago.

Fabien Condamine, a longtime butterfly researcher at Universite de Montpellier in France, commenting on this new finding stated that the study is important because there are so few fossil discoveries on the topic, but that the implications for the entire field are somewhat moderate.

If look back to the Jurassic time, there ware only the gymnosperms plants like a classic pine tree. Butterflies had used their tubular mouths to drunk pollen from the pine tree, Eldijk stated. The new study also has revealed that the butterflies and moths have the capability to survive under adversity. 201 million years ago, during the time of upheaval many species had died and gone extinct that included many marine species and land animals. That incident also had changed the climate. However, butterflies and moth scales are present in there.

The study also suggested that the appendage likely helped the insects to avoid dehydration in the hot and arid prehistoric climate.

However, the researchers noted that these are all assumption and there are a lot of questions to be answered. Like the origins of the proboscis and how it was helping moths and butterflies during that time.

Niklas Wahlberg of Lund University in Sweden and a butterfly expert stated that the new study paper is really exciting. The images of individual microscopic scales are also beautiful, he further added.


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