|The moth I chanced upon in Ecuador|
|A sketch of the 165 million year old fossil insect Juracimbrophlebia, |
a comparison between the ginkgo leaf and the wings in the top right
and a small specimen of the ginkgo specie sin the bottom right
There are many arthropods which disguise themselves as objects in their environment. Yet recent fossil evidence has shown that this evolutionary behaviour has been around for hundreds of millions of years. Palaeontologists working in China have found that a once overlooked fossil of what was originally thought to have been a five leafed extinct form of ginkgo plant was actually an insect similar in shape to a dragonfly.
|The fossil fly itself|
It is likely that it evolved its incredible mimicking abilities in order to simultaneously hide from its predators. The perfect nature of its camouflage provided by its four wings and abdomen were so similar to the leaves of the ginkgo Yimaia capituliformis that it managed to fool experts after 165 million years.
It is possible that the two species co-evolved in a mutually beneficial relationship. The relationships between plants and insects are some of the most fundamental in the biological world, having driven the evolution of not just the two dependent parties, but that of mammals, birds and even reptiles.
This tiny, 165 million year old fossil fly, shows just how ingenious nature can be, engineering solutions to problems which have stumped many. Big changes such as the Cambrian Explosion can result in the rise of new animal groups, but such events are rare. It is the smaller relationships and adaptations which create the diversity of life. The moth in the Amazon Rainforest was one small part of this.