Ancient Insects Wore Exoskeletons Of Other Bugs To Disguise Themselves

Posted: Jun 25 2016, 4:24am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 25 2016, 9:22am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Ancient Insects Wore Exoskeletons of Other Bugs to Disguise Themselves
A reconstruction of ancient insect carrying branch-like debris on its back. Credit: Credit: Bo Wang, Nanjing

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New evidence suggests that insects were using camouflage to hide from their predators as many as 100 million years ago.

Insects are masters of disguise. They can use a variety of materials ranging from obvious such as pieces of plants or grains of sands to gruesome ones like corpses of the other bugs to blend themselves into the surroundings and to avoid becoming prey. And they have been employing such techniques as many as a hundred million years ago, according to a new research.

An international team of researchers have extensively studied 35 samples of insects preserved in amber and tried to unlock camouflage techniques used by ancient insects. They also attempted to find out when insect species have started using them. In short, this is the first study to show how old and diverse insect camouflage really is. The samples of fossilized insects were taken from across the globe including Myanmar, France, and Lebanon.

“These are very rare fossils, which give us unique insights into life more than 100 million years ago.” Dr. Torsten Wappler, one of the researcher involved in the study from University of Bonn said.

Researchers were stunned to find how many types of camouflage methods were being used by insects in the Cretaceous period. Some of the larvae used to carry ‘armor’ made of sand grains while others tend to wrap a complex structure resembling the thickets of branches on their back. One of the real amazing techniques was that of employed by the larva of lacewing. The insect attacked a pseudoscorpion, draws its powerful mouthparts into its own and wore the exoskeleton of the dead prey to hide itself from potential predators. This kind of behavior has not been observed in any insect today.

"It is very surprising how early in evolution such complex insect behavior developed: The larvae had to search actively for suitable 'camouflage material', pick it up, and cloak themselves with it.” Dr. Bo Wang of the State Key Laboratory of Paleobiology and Stratigraphy in Nanjing, China and principal investigator of the study said.

Debris-carrying camouflage is still found in lacewing and assassin bugs and it’s a possibility that this technique in modern insects was evolved from their ancient specimens.

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