Mankind has long dreamed of being able to take flight like a bird with wings, but maybe if this ancient beetle had stuck around long enough we’d all be inspired to try and lift off using our own little helicopter-like propellers on our back.
Two newly discovered, tiny, ancient beetles were found in amber (yes, just like the mosquito in Jurassic Park) in Germany, and they have two wings that seem to most closely resemble helicopter blades. (If you find yourself doing your best Arnold Schwarzenegger and yelling, “Get to the chopper!” just know I did the same thing when I read this too). We came across this very cool little discovery at Science News, but you can purchase the actual study where the findings were released here in the Journal of Paleontology.
The beetles, named Derolathrus groehni, were found in amber dating back to the Eocene epoch, which places it sometime between “55.8 to 33.9 million years ago.” They are a type of Jacobson’s beetle (Jacobsoniidae), which is “a small group of small-to-minute polyphagan beetles,” and just like their modern brethren these new helicopter-like members were not very large.
Researchers studied the minute beetles using micro–computed tomography (micro-CT) and besides their propellers, they said they were “noteworthy for the well-developed eyes and elongate prothorax” they displayed.
Every time someone puts a spade into the ground, or moves away a rock, we have the potential to find a very cool piece of history of life on this planet. This time it was a little beetle that flew around like a helicopter, who knows what it will be tomorrow.
What are some of your favorite ancient life discoveries? Dig into our comments section with your thoughts.
And speaking of interesting airborne insects, here’s our own Kyle Hill with a few thoughts on Spider-Man’s web-slinging abilities.
Images: Dr Chenyang Cai