Post link 05 May 2015, 12:05
Posted: May 3, 2015 John Thomas Didymus

100-Million-Year-Old Predatory Cockroach Discovered Preserved In Amber

Featured Image: Peter Vršanský, Geological Institute, Bratislava, Slovakia via New Scientist

A 100-million-year-old cockroach that hunted prey at a time that the world was dominated by dinosaurs has been found preserved perfectly in amber.

The prehistoric creature, believed to be from the early to mid-Cretaceous, was one of several fossilized insects found at a mine in Noije Bum, Myanmar, New Scientist reports.

Peter Vršanský and Günter Bechly, experts from the Geological Institute in Bratislava, Slovakia and the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, respectively, examined the insect with the scientific name Manipulator modificaputis.

They described it as an insect that had unusually long legs and a long neck that allowed it to rotate its head freely. The salient physical features of the insect, according to the experts, were suggestive of an agile and aggressively predatory praying mantis-like insect that spent most of its time hunting for food.

The researchers emphasized that the physical adaptation of the species was specifically for the “predatory lifestyle.”

“The new species exemplifies the reverse trend to that observed in the mantodeans, namely an elongation of extremities, including palps. This elongation especially applies to the elongation of tibia. In addition to the pursuit predatory lifestyle, it can be inferred that these insect were autochthonous inhabitants of the Cretaceous Araucaria amber forest in Myanmar. This inference is mainly based on the fact that four additional specimens of this new taxon (with one early immature specimen) are known to us from traders of Myanmar amber inclusions.”

Although, it did not look exactly like most cockroaches living today, it belonged to a family of extinct predatory insects that hunted at night and were closely related to extant cockroaches and praying mantis.

Manipulator modificaputis was not the only cockroach-like predatory insect that lived in the early Cretaceous, a period that was relatively warm with high sea levels during which several new types of mammals, birds, and flowering plants emerged.

Several predatory insects of the same lineage emerged during the period but they all became extinct. The only living insect representative of the family of ancient insects is the praying mantis which has front legs similar to the ancient species biologically related to modern cockroaches.

According to Vršanský of the Geological Institute in Bratislava, the number of perfectly preserved specimens of ancient insects found at the site in Nojie Bum, Myanmar, makes it one of the most important sites for amber-preserved prehistoric species of insects in the world.

Several complete specimens of adult insects were found at the site and scientists hope that the fossil record will help in the reconstruction of the evolutionary history of the insects.

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