“scientists know well : the core samples taken by drilling at greater depth often contain particles of various materials, including bits of insects. They do generally give little attention, preferring to work on pollen and spores, whose variations allow them to better understand the ecosystems of the past” tells the Scientific American.

But the abundance of these particles in sediment samples collected at 300 meters under the earth in northern Germany has led Timo van Eldijk, an evolutionary biologist at the university of Utrecht, the netherlands, to look a little more closely. According to the researcher, and his colleagues, the songs of insects found to be the oldest fossil record of the lepidoptera, an order of insects comprising the butterflies and moths.

The researchers date back to 201 million years ago – at the time where the dinosaurs foulaient the ground of the Earth – the period in which these butterflies live in. And it is much earlier than we previously thought. They detail their findings in Science Advances published 10 January.

analyze 70 specimens discovered in their samples, they found that some of the moths identified exhibited signs of the presence of trunk several tens of million years before flowering plants did not evolve, “refuting the association ancestral group [of insects] with plants and flowers”, write the researchers. These observations overturn the theory that the part oral of butterflies has evolved to reach the nectar inside flowers.

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