Bees and butterflies are primarily known for pollinating flowers. However, now scientists have concluded that millions of years ago beetles had the pollination prowess.
According to the researchers, the prehistoric plants that the beetles helped fertilize included cycads. These plants appear to be a combination of palms and ferns; however, it's most likely that they are closely related to pines.
While researchers already had an idea about the fact that modern cycads were pollinated by beetles, this is the first time that they have discovered a 99-million-year-old beetle trapped in amber from Myanmar. The little fellow was preserved with pilfered pollen from a cycad. The paleontologists have published their findings in Current Biology.
"Finding this ancient relationship, it's like a dream come true," Chenyang Cai stated. Cai is a research fellow at England's University of Bristol.
This beetle is known as boganiid beetle. They have a tiny cavity, which is filled with hair at their mandibles' base. It acted like a pocket, where they could collect pollen.
Dr. Cai examined the beetle thoroughly and minutely and spotted dozens of pollen's specks, some of which were even clustered in clumps, alongside the beetle.
"I was very excited. I just wanted to know what was this pollen. It's not on the body of the beetle, but it's very close to the beetle and to its mouth part," stated one thrilled Dr. Cai.
He believes that it's possible that the pollen had once been on the beetle and then it might have fallen off, as the pair was engulfed by the tree resin.
After that Liqin Li from the Chinese Academy of Sciences concluded the pollen actually belonged to an ancient cycad. Li studies ancient pollen at the Academy and also, he is one of the authors of the paper.
The researchers also found out that this ancient beetle's closest living relative was one such beetle in Australia, which also pollinated cycads.
Also, the latest found goes back 99 million years, the experts think that this proof leads to the point that the pollination process was actually much older, probably it dated back to the Triassic Period. If that's true then it means that beetles were pollinating flowers over a hundred million years before butterflies and bees started it, which might have been near-about 130 million years ago.