This one reminds me of the Matthew Brady photographs of Civil War soldiers slain in the moment of battle, or of the famous Robert Capa photograph of the Spanish soldier, shot but not yet fallen.
Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a soldier beetle preserved for 100 million years in amber, and at the moment of its death, before it got blindsided and trapped in a flow of ooze, it was using chemical weapons to fight off a big fat roach.
Here’s the press release from OSU, about an article published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology:
CORVALLIS, Ore. – It appears that chemical warfare has been around a lot longer than poison arrows, mustard gas or nerve weapons – about 100 million years, give or take a little.
A new study by researchers at Oregon State University has identified a soldier beetle, preserved almost perfectly in amber, which was in the process of using chemical repellants to fight off an attacker when an oozing flow of sap preserved the struggle for eternity.
The discovery is the earliest fossil record of a chemical defense response, scientists say, and indicates that this type of protective mechanism – now common in the insect world and among other animal species – has been around for more than 100 million years. It’s a sophisticated form of defense that clearly was in good working order while dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.
The findings were just published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.
“The chance of these circumstances all coming together at the exact right second was pretty slim,” said George Poinar, Jr., a courtesy professor of zoology at OSU and one of the world’s leading experts on distant life forms preserved in amber. “You have a prehistoric insect being attacked, using its defenses to ward off the predator and the whole event becoming captured in action as sap flowed down a tree. It’s quite remarkable.” Read the rest of this entry »