Insects Used Camouflage 100 Million Years Ago

Posted: Jun 25 2016, 3:12am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 25 2016, 3:15am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Insects Used Camouflage 100 Million Years Ago
The larvae usually live concealed and camouflaged in ground litter or under stones, lying in wait for prey. Left: Well camouflaged with small stones. Middle: Carbonized plant residue is used as camouflage here. Right: Reconstruction of a yet uncamouflaged owlfly larva (Neuroptera). Credit: Bo Wang, Nanjing
  • Amber Fossils Reveal Insect Species employed Camouflage Eons Ago

The latest evidence shows that insect species employed camouflage eons ago.

Everyone has heard of masked balls and how people disguise themselves via such clever and cunning subterfuge at these events. Yet until now it escaped human knowledge that insects were using camouflage techniques a 100 million years ago.

During the Cretaceous Period in prehistory, insects were hiding behind pieces of plant material, particles of sand and even leftover debris from prey. The insects wanted to remain hidden from their predators. That was the main motive behind this strategy.

A research team has identified and studied the camouflage cloaks used by insects. The remains of the insects with their hiding devices have been preserved in amber. Such invisibility devices also show the conditions of the environment at the time.

The study was published in the journal "Science Advances".

The larva of the lacewing may attack a pseudoscorpion and use its dracula-like mouth parts to suck the prey of any of its liquid components. After this the larva puts the discarded pseudoscorpion’s carcass on its own body. With such a clever guise, the outline of the lacewing is hidden from view.

Such a camouflage allows the lacewing to remain anonymous and also hunt prey that would otherwise flee at the slightest provocation. Via the pieces of the pseudoscorpion, it even reeks of this insect it dined on before using its body as a source of camouflage.

Such a scenario took place during the Cretaceous Period. It was preserved in amber and could now be studied by scientists. An international team studied 35 such scenes caught in amber.

It was obvious from looking at them that the insects employed grains of sand, plant detritus, wood fiber, specks of dust and most importantly the dead body parts of their prey to disguise their demeanor.

Such evidence of early camouflage is a precious find. The fossils found are very rare examples of a process that took place such a long time ago.

Some of the larvae used the camouflage armor as a means of defence from spiders which might otherwise bite them. It was a wonder to behold such a wide range of schemes used by the insects to camouflage their bodies.

The insects even modified their own bodies to allow the camouflage items to stick to their exoskeletons. What remains a source of surprise is how insects could have used such a complex means of camouflage so early on in their developmental history.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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