Extinct beetle found in Ukrainian amber

(ORDO NEWS) — Employees of the Zoological Museum of Moscow State University together with their colleagues found the first representative of the species Telmatophilus (Coleoptera: Cryptophagidae, beetle detachment, family of crypto-eaters) in the Rivne amber from the floodplain of the Veselukha river (Ukraine).

The data obtained make it possible to reconstruct an unknown fragment in the evolutionary pattern of animals and plant organisms in the second half of the Eocene. The work was published in the journal Invertebrate Zoology.

Rivne amber is the southern analogue of the more famous Baltic amber. In the study of the Late Eocene Rovno amber in the floodplain of the Veselukha river (north-west of the Rivne region), a new species of beetle was found – Dermatophilus sidorchuk Lyubarsky et Perkovsky sp.n.

This extinct species turned out to be very similar to the modern species Telmatophilus typhae, which feeds on cattail. The found species differs from the modern ones in a number of external features, in particular, relatively long antennae and close middle basins.

“This is the first representative of the species found, previously only living bugs of this genus were known before,” says senior researcher at the Zoological Museum of Moscow State University Ph.D. George Lubarsky. – Fortunately, a piece of amber, including a beetle, turned out to be quite transparent. The insect is clearly visible, you can even consider the details of the structure. This is not always the case, sometimes only a slurred shadow is visible or some part of the beetle emerges from amber dimming. We were lucky to find a very good copy.”

Entomologists associate the emergence of the genus Telmatophilus with the wide distribution of semi-submerged plants (Typha and Sparganium) that these beetles feed on. The genus Telmatophilus differs from other genera of the family in that its representatives switched to plant nutrition, while the rest continued to eat mushrooms and mold.

The development of beetles occurs quickly: the female lays eggs on the leaves of aquatic plants, and larvae hatch after 3-4 days. They eat pollen from fodder plants, pupate after 16–19 days, and after a couple of weeks an adult beetle leaves the pupa. All this happens from early July to mid-August. The life cycle of the beetle is closely related to the cycle of the feed plant.

Apparently, the appearance of lakes during climatic cooling in the second half of the Eocene contributed to the distribution of semi-submerged bog plants (cattail, night-caper, sedge) that feed on Dermatophilus species.

The evolution of Dermatophilus beetles, which switched to flower nutrition, and host plants was restored due to the recent botanists revising the phylogeny and historical biogeography of cattail (Typha). Close to modern species of cattail appeared only in the middle of the Eocene, about 40 million years ago, on the territory of Eastern Eurasia.

Apparently, the reproductive cycle of the ancestors of the Dermatophilus beetles, feeding on semi-submerged marsh plants (helophytes), was associated with cold winters, which prevented the genus from spreading outside the Holarctic.

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