Perhaps less well known are the beetle fossils found at Messel. They are perfectly preserved in 3D with tiny details such as the delicate, articulated limbs. The most incredible feature, however, is a series of iridescent, striking colours that adorn the exquisitely fossilized carapaces. Analysis showed that these colours were not from the oil shale but came from microscopic, cellular structures within the shell which are responsible for the colours in arthropods.
|These 50 million year old, blue beetles would have been more violet in life|
A research team led by Dr McNamara analysed the cuticles of various beetle specimens covering a range of dates from 47 to 15 million years old. The colours in the cuticles come from the aforementioned microscopic structures which absorb and enhance certain reflected wavelengths, causing a dazzling array of iridescent colours. The study used a series of powerful analytical tools to determine if warping during fossilisation had a significant enough effect upon the structures to change electromagnetic output.
|The team's reconstruction of ancient beetle colours in life. |
The beetle colour is taken and then shifted one
place to the left along the chain to reveal its true colours