Several geological eras later some scientists found that beetle and had a very good day.
Indeed, a fascinating aspect about early pollinating insects is that they were paired with non-flowering plants (gymnosperms), rather than flowering plants (angiosperms).
Added Dr Cai: "Our discovery indicates a probable ancient origin of beetle pollination of cycads at least in the Early Jurassic, long before angiosperm dominance and the radiation of flowering-plant pollinators later in the Cretaceous".
The beetles were so involved with cycads that they evolved special adaptations like mandibular patches that transport pollen. If so, that may mean that beetles were pollinating plants more than a hundred million years before butterflies and bees were first pollinating flowers, which may have been around 130 million years ago. Its length is only a couple millimetres, the insect has long mandibles, which is traditional for cycads pollinators.
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A 99-million-year-old beetle was found in Amber in Myanmar.
After the study researchers cut, trimmed, and polished the specimen, they examined it under a microscope. Then while visiting dozens of other cycads, it may happen upon a female cycad and deliver that pollen.
"Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the age of cycads and dinosaurs", Chenyang Cai, research fellow at the University of Bristol, said in a news release. The boganiid beetle, the researches found, belonged to a group of Australian beetles that now pollinate the cycad Macrozamia riedlei. This makes it the earliest definitive fossil evidence of beetles possible helping pollinate cycads. Another evidence of existing insectoid pollinators dates back to about 165 million years. Liqin Li, an expert in ancient pollen at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, later confirmed that the pollen grains belonged to a cycad.
He also conducted an extensive DNA analysis to explore the beetle's family tree and found the fossilised beetle belonged to a sister group to the Australian Paracucujus, which pollinates the relic cycad Macrozamia riedlei today.
Cai notes that the findings together with the distribution of modern boganiid beetles lead him to suspect that similar beetle pollinators of cycads are yet to be found.