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Fascinating: Amber fossils reveal the true colors of 99-million-year-old insects

Researchers have discovered the true colors of a group of fossilized insects, trapped in amber approximately 99 million years ago in Myanmar. The ancient insects include cuckoo wasps, soldier flies, and beetles, all bursting in metallic blue, purple, and green colors, reports Fermin Koop in an article published by ZME Science.

Nature is very visually rich but fossils rarely retain evidence of an organism’s original color. Nevertheless, paleontologists are now finding ways of teasing out colors from well-preserved fossils, whether they be dinosaurs and flying reptiles or ancient snakes and mammals.

For the new study, a research team from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) looked at 35 individual amber samples with fantastically preserved insects trapped inside. The fossils were found in an amber mine in northern Myanmar.

The amber is mid-Cretaceous, approximately 99 million years old, dating back to the golden age of dinosaurs,” said Cai Chenyan, the lead author, in a press release. “It is essentially resin produced by ancient coniferous trees that grew in a tropical rainforest environment. Animals and plants trapped in the thick resin got preserved, some with life-like fidelity.”

Among all the fossils, the cuckoo wasps were particularly stunning, with their heads, thorax, abdomen, and legs featuring hues of metallic blue-green, yellow-red, violet, and green. The color patterns were a close match to cuckoo wasps alive today, according to the research. Other standouts included blue and purple beetles and metallic dark-green soldier flies.

Researchers detailed their discovery this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Source: Read the full article in ZME Science
Photos: NIGPAS

Diverse structural-colored insects in mid-Cretaceous amber from northern Myanmar. Credit: NIGPAS.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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