Scientists have found the oldest fossil depicting copulating insects in northeastern China, published November 6th in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Dong Ren and colleagues at the Capital Normal University in China.
Fossil records of mating insects are fairly sparse, and therefore our current knowledge of mating position and genitalia orientation in the early stages of evolution is rather limited.
In this study, the authors present a fossil of a pair of copulating froghoppers, a type of small insect that hops from plant to plant much like tiny frogs. The well-preserved fossil of these two froghoppers showed belly-to-belly mating position and depicts the male reproductive organ inserting into the female copulatory structure.
This is the earliest record of copulating insects to date, and suggests that froghoppers' genital symmetry and mating position have remained static for over 165 million years. Ren adds, "We found these two very rare copulating froghoppers which provide a glimpse of interesting insect behavior and important data to understand their mating position and genitalia orientation during the Middle Jurassic."
Citation: Li S, Shih C, Wang C, Pang H, Ren D (2013) Forever Love: The Hitherto Earliest Record of Copulating Insects from the Middle Jurassic of China. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78188. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078188
Financial Disclosure: This research is supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (grant 2012CB821906), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 31172143, 31230065, 31272352 and 41272006), Project of Great Wall Scholar and KEY project of Beijing Municipal Commission of Education (grants KZ201310028033), and China Geological Survey (grant 1212011120115). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
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