Insects have been taking care of their offspring for 160 million years

(ORDO NEWS) — Although insects are not usually associated in our minds with the concept of “nurturing parent”, a team of Chinese paleontologists found evidence of parental care in Jurassic water bugs.

Although each of us knows insects that show care for their offspring – ants and bees – usually six-legged insects seem to us to be rather carefree parents who, at best, simply leave their eggs in a suitable place.

Only a few are familiar with, say, predatory bugs , whose males aggressively protect egg laying from strangers, or embia , in which females protect offspring from fathers who do not shy away from cannibalism.

Apparently, parental care in insects has ancient evolutionary roots, but finding evidence for such behavior is rather difficult.

Fortunately, a group of Chinese scientists were lucky: they got their hands on several samples of ancient water bugs, which were almost 163.5 million years old – and all turned out to be females taking care of the laid eggs.

Each of the found insects had a neat clutch of eggs on the middle left leg, in which the eggs lay in rows of six to seven, forming a bunch.

Presumably, female bedbugs achieved this position by bending their legs under their abdomens and sequentially laying their eggs on a slimy “pillow”.

During swimming, water flowed freely around the entire clutch, supplying the developing young with oxygen, but to maintain balance, the bug probably had to row more actively with its right middle leg, which was not occupied with eggs.

Insects have been taking care of their offspring for 160 million years 2
Among modern water bugs, there are also many caring parents: for example, in this species, the female lays her eggs on the back of the male, and he carries the cubs until hatching

Thus, already in the middle of the Jurassic, there were caring parents among insects who used an unusual strategy for caring for offspring, because such asymmetric clutches on only one leg are not found in any other species of extinct or existing insects.

Probably, the behavior of Karataviella popovi was only a “test shot” in the evolution of caring parent insects, and later water bugs switched to the formation of symmetrical clutches on both legs or on the back of the father bug, which turned out to be much more beneficial from a hydrodynamic point of view.


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