Oldest bug bonk

Preserved as fossils, two insects remain caught in the act 165 million years later

In the Middle Jurassic, two insects called froghoppers (Anthoscytina perpetua) came together in a dance as old as time.

Before they had a chance to mate, death came knocking. The pair was buried and remained there for 165 million years, preserved as fossils described November 6 in PLOS ONE.

Researchers in China found the beautifully preserved specimen among 1,200 other fossils from a site in Inner Mongolia. The insects would have been easy to miss. Each body measures only 15–17 millimeters long. Caught in the act, the insects are in a mating position similar to that of modern froghoppers, showing that some things haven’t changed in 165 million years. 

In a fossil from the Middle Jurassic, a male froghopper (left) inserts his genitalia into the female (right). S. Li et al/PLOS ONE 2013

Bethany was previously the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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