By dating fossils of pollen and beetles
It’s kind of remarkable.”Previous findings have shown that both beetles and cycads were around at least 250 million years ago, and may have been interacting even back then.
But finding evidence of their partnership in fossils compressed in rock—the primary type of fossil available from earlier than about 120 million years ago—is tricky because of the lack of detail.
So when his colleague and study coauthor Diying Huang of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology brought Cai a fossil of Burmese amber that Huang had purchased from Myanmar locals at the Chinese-Myanmar border that appeared to contain such a beetle, Cai was elated.
“There’s much more out there to be discovered,” she says.
“One of the reasons this is exciting is it gives us another hint of what the interactions between plants and insects actually were in a time that is very long ago.” C.
“The authors did a pretty good job of looking at this specimen and putting it in its appropriate phylogenetic context and looking at the pollen and putting that into a phylogenetic context and then combining the two into an ecological relationship that goes all the way back to the early part of the Mesozoic [Era].”Nagalingum cautions that these pollen grains are very difficult to ascribe to a particular plant group, and they could also have come from another ancient gymnosperm.
“There’s just so much uncertainty associated with paleobotany” because complete plant fossils are so rare, she says.