Recently, scientists discovered a prehistoric butterfly which is similar to contemporary insects.
A team of biologists conducted a study which revealed a butterfly from the same period as dinosaurs. This helped them understand how insects looked in that era.
Their results showed that the creature has many similar traits as present-day insects. After scientists evaluated the fossils from northeastern China they found that the insect is alike to modern butterflies.
Co-study author David Dilcher said that:
“upon examining these new fossils, we’ve unraveled a surprisingly wide array of physical and ecological similarities between the fossil species and modern butterflies, which shared a common ancestor 320 million years ago”.
Further analysis showed that the creature had a long tongue used for gathering nectar. This organ is believed to be similar to those of the ancient lacewing. Lacewing is a type of insect that lived in Eurasia during the Mesozoic.
Moreover, the specimen had big spots on its wings. This is a characteristic trait of some species of modern butterflies. For example, owl butterflies have this set of markings which enables them to mislead predators.
This is a defense mechanism that can be traced to creatures that lived 200 million years ago. Scientists recovered pollen and food samples from the proboscis of the insect. After their examined it, they discovered that the tiny creature fed on a type of plant with seeds—bennettitales—which is now extinct.
The insect carried the pollen on its legs. In spite of their similarities with modern butterflies, researchers are not convinced that the insects are true butterflies. This is due to the fact that they were around 40 and 85 million years before the actual butterflies appeared.
Researchers say that this is a specimen of kalligrammatid lacewings. Also they think this is a case of convergent evolution. This happens when two distantly related animals evolve with similar physical characterisctics. Regarding the butterflies and the kalligrammatid, both of them were trapped in different ages. Therefore, convergent evolution can exist even between huge timescales.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia