[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Cretaceous Butterflies?

link has pictures


Butterflies may be far more ancient creatures than previously believed,   
reveals a new study of fossil specimens exquisitely preserved in amber.

The oldest known butterflies fossilised in rocks suggest the winged 
insects date back to about 40 or 50 million years ago. But evidence from  
the five stunning amber specimens now suggests it is possible butterflies
may have even fluttered around the heads of dinosaurs, which were wiped   
out 65 million years ago.

The amber pieces come from the Dominican Republic and each contains a 
perfectly preserved metalmark butterfly, which is now extinct. "It was    
just incredible," says Robert Robbins, one of the researchers at the 
Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, US. "It's no different than if  
you took a modern day butterfly and put it under a light microscope."

But it is Voltinia dramba's relationship to its closest living relative in
Mexico which gives vital clues to the evolution of butterflies.

"It would appear it diverged from its closest living relative almost ago
[40 to 50 million years] ago," Robbins told New Scientist. "That would  
mean that the major families of butterfly already existed, so it would  
appear butterflies are somewhat older than that."

The evolution of many animal groups took off after mass extinctions
annihilated the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period. "It means
the precursors of butterflies were already there. Whether butterflies   
actually existed in the Cretaceous is a pretty interesting question," he
Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B (DOI: