Researchers have uncovered insects trapped in amber 130 million years ago. While this would ordinarily be an exciting find, the discovery has added impact as it has captured the exact moment in time the insects burst through their eggs.
The finding, published in the scientific journal Palaeontology, demonstrates how the insects used a tool known as egg burster to get through the shell.
"The structures that make hatching possible tend to disappear quickly once egg-laying animals hatch, so obtaining fossil evidence of them is truly exceptional," said study author Dr. Michael Engel in comments obtained by The Sun.
The insects, trapped in Lebanese amber, show that the technique was established as far back as the Early Cretaceous period.
It also "proves through direct fossil evidence how some morphological traits related to hatching and linked behaviors, at least in insect embryos, have been subject to a high degree of evolutionary conservatism," according to the study's abstract.
The insects, ancient relatives of modern-day green lacewings, were trapped by the resin while still holding onto the shells, researchers believe. It's likely that the eggs were placed on a tree and the resin seeped from the trunk and fossilized them nearly instantly.
"Egg bursters are diverse in shape and location," the study's lead author Dr. Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente said in comments obtained by The Sun.
Dr. Pérez-de la Fuente continued: "Modern green lacewing hatchlings split the egg with a 'mask' bearing a jagged blade. Once used, this 'mask' is shed and left attached to the empty eggshell, which is exactly what we found in the amber together with the newborns."
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