APR 11, 2018 08:45 PM PDT

Researchers Shed Light on Color of 200 Million-Year-Old Insect

Fossils often speak volumes about the physical features and lifestyles of some of the world’s earliest-known forms of life. On the other hand, scientists have always struggled with discerning prehistoric species’ colors from fossils alone.

Despite the challenges associated with fossil-based color identification, it’s not impossible. When the circumstances are ideal, scientists can often discover clues. A good example is when specimens become encased in chunks of Burmese amber and survive more than 200 million years.

An artist's impression of a 200 million-year-old insect involved in this study.

Image Credit: Yang Dinghua

Circumstances as cut and dry as those mentioned above don’t transpire very often, but an international team of researchers recently happened upon a lucky break that fits the bill. They’ve reported their findings in the journal Science Advances this week.

With the help of some advanced observation techniques, including optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), the researchers determined the structural color of a Jurassic lepidoptera’s wing scales from within its amber casing.

These wing scales are so incredibly small that they can’t be seen with the naked eye; nevertheless, they come arranged in countless different ways. Consequently, these wing scale arrangements reflect various light wavelengths and exhibit specific colors depending on how the light becomes scattered.

Related: Meet the 99 million-year-old chick that got encased and fossilized in amber

Upon achieving a closer look at the wing scale arrangements, the researchers then punched their raw data into computer models to see how it would impact light and color. Impressively, the team concluded that the insects would have exhibited a metallic color.

The findings are significant because they serve as some of the earliest evidence for structural colorization ever noted in lepidopterans. They can teach us more about how these insects evolved, and more importantly, divulge what life on Earth may have been like long before people came to be.

It should be interesting to see whether researchers will get a chance to discern the colors of other fossilized creatures. After all, these insects aren’t the only specimens preserved in Burmese amber.

Source: EurekAlert

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 28, 2018
Videos
AUG 28, 2018
While You Sleep This Parasitic Bug Could Chew on Your Face
It sounds like a horror movie. At night, while people are peacefully sleeping, a tiny bug crawls over their face, takes a bite, sucks some blood out, and a...
AUG 28, 2018
Plants & Animals
AUG 28, 2018
Migrating Monarch Butterflies Are Experiencing Elevated Parasitism Risks
Monarch butterflies don’t take too kindly to the colder Winter months. The insects naturally avoid the cold by migrating to places that stay warm yea...
AUG 29, 2018
Plants & Animals
AUG 29, 2018
Current Animal Conservation Efforts Skip Over Key Habitats, Study Finds
When it comes to animal conservation, opinions vary from one person to the next concerning how to go about it. But a new study published this week in the j...
SEP 19, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 19, 2018
This African Bird is New to Science, and Conservationists Say It's Already in Trouble
Endemic to Africa’s mid-elevation forest space is the Willard’s Sooty Boubou, a bird species that, up until recently, wasn’t recognized b...
OCT 01, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 01, 2018
First Lion Cubs Born Via Artificial Insemination Prove Healthy
At first glance, these two South African lion cubs probably look exactly like any other pair of South African lion cubs would; however, looks can be deceiv...
OCT 08, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 08, 2018
Problematic Drunk Birds Are Concerning Residents in Minnesota
While it’s not unusual for people to become a bit drunk after having too much to drink, it’s not every day that we see wild animals partaking i...
Loading Comments...