New three dimensional images of 305-million-year-old insects, including a prehistoric roach relative, have just been unveiled.
The images, published in the journal PLoS ONE, suggest that roaches and their predecessors haven't changed all that much over the years. You can see all of the bodily details, including the little legs that must have skittled around back in the pre-dino day.
Both of the insects are members of a group called the Polyneoptera, which includes
roaches, mantises, crickets, grasshoppers and earwigs. The juvenile bugs fossilized in rock, so it's a mini tech miracle that they could be imaged.
To accomplish that, Russell Garwood of the University of Manchester's
School of Materials and his colleagues placed the fossils in a CT scanner. They then took over 3,000 X-rays
from different angles, creating 2,000 slices
showing the fossil in cross section.
From these slices the researchers created 3D digital reconstructions of
"The roach nymph is much like modern day cockroaches — although it
isn't a 'true' cockroach, as it may well predate the split between true
cockroaches and their sister group, the mantises," Garwood said in a press release.
"Around this time a number of early 'amphibians' were insectivores –
they lived by eating a lot of insects," he added. "The spiny creature was a sitting
duck, as it couldn't fly, so the spines probably made it less
palatable. It is bizarre — as far as we're aware, quite unlike any
members of the Polyneoptera alive today."
The researchers plan to study other fossil insects in hopes of learning more about them and their life cycles.
(Images: University of Manchester)