Colorful moth wings date back to the dinosaur era | Science News

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Colorful moth wings date back to the dinosaur era

New fossils reveal the structure of the ancient insects’ light-scattering scales

By
2:14pm, April 11, 2018
Micropterix aruncella

ANCIENT COLOR Scientists found microscopic texturing on the scales of moths from the Jurassic Period that resembles what’s seen today in Micropterix aruncella (shown). Those structures give the insects their iridescent colors.

Tiny light-scattering structures that give today’s butterflies and moths their brilliant hues date back to the days of the dinosaurs.

Fossilized mothlike insects from the Jurassic Period bear textured scales on their forewings that could display iridescent colors, researchers report April 11 in Science Advances. The fossils are the earliest known examples of insects displaying structural color — that is, color produced by light bending around microscopic structures, rather than light being absorbed and reflected as with a pigment or a dye. Structural color is common in bird feathers and butterfly wings today, but finding such features in the fossil record can be tricky.

Scientists know very little about what the scales of ancient butterflies and moths looked like because that level of detail is preserved in very few fossils, says Conrad Labandeira, a paleoentomologist at the

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