Researchers analyzed a unique fossilized nest of an insect 29 million years old. It gives an idea of the reproduction of ancient species.
This is reported by CNN with reference to a study published in the scientific journal Parks Stewardship Forum.
In 2012, in the American state of Oregon, scientists found a fossilized nest buried in sandy soil. It had about 50 elongated eggs.
“We found that there was a protein layer that held everything together. It wasn’t just a cluster of eggs – it was a type of underground egg capsule called an ootheca, with the eggs covered by a protective layer that mineralized into a stony shell.” – said research co-author Nick Famoso.
|Fossil with insect eggs, 29 million years old. Photo: Nick Famoso/National Park Service
Currently, underground egg capsules are produced by only two groups of insects – grasshoppers (order Orthoptera, suborder Caelifera) and midges (order Mantophasmatodea).
On the surface of the nest, scientists saw 28 elongated eggs measuring no more than 4.65 millimeters in length and 1.84 millimeters in width, which coincides with the size of eggs of modern grasshoppers. During the scanning of the fossils, more than two dozen eggs were found hidden in the stratum. Some of them were empty, while others were filled with sediment.
The samples found were compared with the eggs of more than 6,700 living species. Such large, elliptically curved eggs in a large clutch are unknown to any other group of insects except grasshoppers and locusts.
Insect eggs are extremely rare in fossils, especially intact ones. The found fossilized shell probably belongs to a grasshopper. It is the only one that gives an idea of their reproduction, starting from the Oligocene epoch – 33.9-23 million years ago.
“This work is very interesting because such exceptional preservation provides unique information about one of the least studied stages of insect life, especially in the geological past.” – noted co-author of the study Jamin Lee.
In addition, the fossil was found in an environment unfavorable for it – millions of years ago there was a water body there. Similar samples are usually preserved in lake sediments together with plant mass. Such places are poor in oxygen and relatively static.
It will be recalled that fossils of ancient predatory worms were discovered in Greenland.
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