Beetle saved in amber had helicopter wings

An amber collector in Germany has spotted the ancient remains of a beetle never before seen in the fossil record.

Two itty-bitty specimens, entombed in amber since the middle Eocene epoch some 54.5 million to 37 million years ago, represent a new species of Jacobson’s beetle, researchers report online March 28 in the Journal of Paleontology. The beetles, Derolathrus groehni, are, like their modern relatives, about as long as the width of a grain of rice.

MicroCT scans and other images revealed narrow bodies, a shiny brown exterior and two wispy featherlike wings protruding from the hindquarters, angled like the blades of a helicopter. The fossils look just like today’s Jacobson’s beetles, says study coauthor Chenyang Cai of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Fringed, eyelashlike wings may have helped the beetles ride the wind, eventually spreading to far-flung regions of the world — from western Russia (a big source of Baltic amber) to distant habitats in Fiji, Sri Lanka and even Alabama, where Jacobson's beetles have been spotted recently. 

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