In a new findings, scientists discovered a 52 million year old amber encased fossil of a beetle named ‘Protoclaviger trichodens’. Fossil was discovered from Tadkeshwar lignite mine in Gujarat by a team of scientists from Lucknow based Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleobotany and American Museum of Natural History in New York.
This newly discovered fossil enlightens the fact that these beetles were unique because they bypassed security in densely populated ant colonies, and bloomed by eating their eggs and utilizing their resources. But how they do it, still is a mystery, researchers said.
The new finding feeds oldest known example of social parasitism among insects. The research was published in science journal ‘Current Biology’ on 2October 2014, “the fossil is the oldest-known example of this kind of social parasitism, known as “myrmecophily” where a predator lives within the colony of ants thriving on their resources and eggs.”
The site where this unique fossil was discovered was once a rainforest giving shelter to thousands of specimens and their detailed research may give an insight into evolution of insects and environment, Hukam Singh, scientists from Birbal Sahni Institute said.
Lead researcher Joe Parker Parker said, the nests of ants were resourceful and big enough to get exploited by these specialized parasites. “And when ants exploded ecologically and began to dominate, these beetles exploded with them,” a statement said.
In an email, Parker said that the specimen found in an amber deposit may be the missing link in the evolution process. “Protoclaviger is a transitional fossil a ‘missing link’ that captures an intermediate stage in the evolution of the profound morphological adaptation that enables these beetles to infiltrate ant-societies,” he said.
There are about 370 recorded species of these ant loving parasite beetles which are about 1-3 millimetres in length. These parasite beetles were specialized in escaping the smell-based security system of pheromones deployed by ants to identify intruders.
The newly discovered fossil’s body is similar to modern Clavigeritae beetle but apparently some parts of discovered fossils are more primitive which suggests that modern beetle must have gone through the process evolution.
“For example, Protoclaviger’s abdominal segments are still distinct, whereas in modern beetles they are fused together into a single shieldlike segment,” Parker said.