Insects Caught in the Act —in 165M-Year-Old Fossil

Offers rare look at froghoppers' mating evolution

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 7, 2013 9:49 AM CST

(Newser) – Meet the world's longest-lasting couple: Two insects who've been doing the deed for 165 million years. Yep, Chinese scientists have uncovered an ancient fossil of the love birds, er, froghoppers—the oldest instance of insects caught in the act in rock form, Popular Science reports. "This one is so rare," said one of the study's authors. "And I have seen more than half a million fossils." The find helps scientists determine the evolution of froghoppers' mating habits and genitalia since they're still around today, but it turns out not much has changed.

The study, appropriately titled "Forever Love: The Hitherto Earliest Record of Copulating Insects from the Middle Jurassic of China," notes the unfortunate pair were likely mating belly-to-belly—or face-to-face for the romantics—just like modern day froghoppers, with the "male's aedeagus inserting into the female's bursa copulatrix." It is possible, however, they were side-to-side when they died of poisonous gases from a volcanic eruption, and were forced into that position due to sediment, the New York Times notes. The pair beats out the next-oldest insect couple, two 135-million-year-old flies.

The froghoppers caught in the act.
The froghoppers caught in the act.   (Su Li and Chungkun Shih)
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