110 million-year-old camouflage suit seen

Dec. 11, 2012 at 8:00 PM

BARCELONA, Spain, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- An insect larva preserved in 110 million-year-old amber is the earliest evidence seen of insect camouflage to protect against predators, Spanish scientists say.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Barcelona and colleagues report the fossil is a predatory larva of the order Neuroptera that has covered itself in a tangle of plant filaments it collected with its jaws to form a defensive camouflage shield.

This evolutionary behavior, known as trash-carrying, is a survival strategy seen in many current insect species to make them nearly undetectable to predators and prey alike, they said.

The fossil, related to current green lacewings, represents a new genus and species designated Hallucinochrysa diogenesi and proves "camouflage strategy and its necessary morphological adaptations early appeared in insects; they already existed in the era of the dinosaurs," the researchers wrote.

The amber piece containing the insect was found in 2008 in El Soplao outcrop in northern Spain, the Mesozoic's richest and largest amber site in Europe, they reported.

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