Newly Discovered 165 Million Years Old "Forever Love" Fossil Holds Oldest Record of Bugs Mating
By Samantha Goodwin | Nov 07, 2013 08:04 AM EST
A newly discovered 165 million years old fossil, nicknamed "Forever Love" holds the oldest record of bugs mating.
A moment of passion during the mid Jurassic period was frozen in time and preserved for all to see today. Researchers from the Capital Normal University in China have uncovered a 165 million-year- old fossil that has been nicknamed "Forever Love" and is the oldest record that shows two bugs mating. According to the New York Times report, the bugs may have been struck dead, felled by poisonous gas from a volcanic eruption.
"We found these two very rare copulating froghoppers, which provide a glimpse of interesting insect behavior and important data to understand their mating position and genitalia orientation during the Middle Jurassic," said co-author Dong Ren of Capital Normal University in China in a press release, according to an IB Times report.
The team added that scientists have a limited understanding of the mating positions and genitalia orientation of prehistoric animals and insects. And fossils showing insects mating or any other form of similar behavior aren't often uncovered. What made the discovery even more interesting was the fact the mating position in the fossils mirrors the current copulating behavior of froghoppers. The bugs were found mating "belly to belly," a study detailing the discovery revealed. The insects, of the species Anthoscytina perpetua, are face-to-face, with the male's sex organ, called the aedeagus, clearly inserted into the female's sex organ, called the bursa copulatrix.
In this region, "insect fossils are so good we can see the detailed structure, including the hair," co-author Chung Kun Shih told Live Science. "The male and female organ - we can see it. That's really rare."
The new discovery confirmed that froghopper sex hasn't changed much over the last 165 million years. The fossilized male's abdominal section is twisted in order to better insert his sex organ - a position also seen in modern insect species. Froghoppers today also prefer to mate either face-to-face, when standing on a small twig or side by side on a leaf or tree trunk.
The team hypothesizes that the two insects were in a lover's hug when a volcanic eruption released a plume of poisonous gas, killing all life in the area, including the bacteria and fungus that would have normally decomposed their bodies. Later, wind or other natural forces tossed the love bugs into a nearby lake, where they were buried under layers of sediment and protected for millions of years.
The team isn't sure whether the insects were truly face-to-face during sex or were originally side by side and later shifted by natural forces after they died.