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Ancient butterflies existed before flowers


Posted on Sunday, 14 January, 2018 | Comment icon 5 comments

Butterflies had a proboscis 70 million years before flowers existed. Image Credit: PD - Richiebits
A fascinating discovery has called in to question everything we know about the evolution of butterflies.
Until now, it was generally accepted that the proboscis - a long, tongue-like mouthpiece used by today's moths and butterflies to reach the nectar inside floral tubes, originally evolved after the emergence of flowers to take advantage of this plentiful new food source.

A new palaeontological discovery however may have cast this theory in to serious doubt.

During a recent study of fossil cores from the late Triassic and early Jurassic, an international team of researchers came across tiny fossilized scales - the type typically found on butterflies and moths.

A more detailed analysis of the find later revealed that these prehistoric butterflies, which date back around 200 million years, also had a proboscis, despite the fact that flowers wouldn't come in to existence for another 70 million years.

The answer, it seems, is that either flowers emerged much earlier and we have yet to find fossil evidence of this or butterflies and moths evolved a proboscis for some other purpose.

In the case of the latter, one possibility is that the proboscis could have helped them lap up the sugary pollination drops of gymnosperms, a type of plant that was extremely common at the time.

Either way, it seems that the existing theory on the evolution of these insects appears to be wrong.

Source: Smithsonian | Comments (5)

Tags: Butterflies, Flowers

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Orphalesion on 14 January, 2018, 21:28
Interesting! Yeah I'm going with the explanation that they used it for the sap of gymnosperms, that was my first thought upon reading the headline.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Hankenhunter on 15 January, 2018, 1:57
My theory is that they were blood  sucking monstrosities that had to change their diet when the dinos died out. I knew you couldn't trust something that perfect. Flitting around without a care in the world. How dare they! Next thing you know they'll be applying for welfare, smoking pot, and loitering at flower shops everywhere. Some, I assume, are good bugs though. *shakes fist at cheery entomologists*  
Comment icon #3 Posted by third_eye on 15 January, 2018, 15:08
It is rather, 'flowers' that I think which needs a whole new outlook ... flowers back then does not look like what it does today, which most of which does not look like we think they do in the wild if at all ... ~
Comment icon #4 Posted by quiXilver on 16 January, 2018, 2:42
They are Flutterby's. When oh when will the rest of the world get this fixed??  
Comment icon #5 Posted by Jon the frog on 28 January, 2018, 22:54
They were probably sucking blood from dinosaur eyes ! Bloodthirsty creatures, don't ever take their cuteness for granted !  


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