Bioluminescent insects have long fascinated scientists, but little is known about how these animals got their light abilities. A 99-million-year-old beetle recently discovered by researchers, however, unlocks a piece of the evolutionary puzzle, according to a study published in The Royal Society journal.
The beetle, known by its Latin name Cretophengodes, was found fossilized in a piece of amber in northern Myanmar. The tropical location was full of insect life during the Cretaceous period, said study author Chenyang Cai, an associate professor at Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Each of the insect’s antennae had 12 segments branching off it, but what caught Cai’s eye was the light organ nestled into its abdomen. That organ gave the beetle bioluminescence, the ability for a living organism to produce its own light, Cai said.
Modern-day insects such as fireflies and glowworms are part of Elateroidea, the same superfamily animal classification that the beetle is from.