Russian scientist found in the United States the remains of the ancient «Tarakanova»

© Photo : Paleontological Institute RAS, Tarakanova, outdoor employee of the Paleontological InstituteRussian scientist found in the United States the remains of the ancient «Tarakanova»© Photo : Paleontological Institute of RAS Subscribe for daily updates RIA Science

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Scientists from the Paleontological Institute and their international partners found in the USA and in Burma remains extremely unusual ancient insects like ants, bees and wasps, but when it is the cockroaches. Their findings have been presented in the journal Biologia.

«This form of mimicry is extremely rare among modern cockroaches are just a few of them today copies the appearance of several beetles. We have shown that in the past, the cockroaches do not just had the capacity for mimicry, but also imitated several predatory insects, changing with them,» write Daniel Aristov Paleontological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and his colleagues.

Many insects, snakes and other animals have developed during the evolution of various types of «cloaking», which is called mimicry. As a rule, harmless insects try to imitate poisonous or predatory species, or trying to blend in with the environment. A striking example of such behavior are the insects stick insects are virtually indistinguishable in color and shape from twigs or dry leaves.

The first insects to have such a «superpower», as shown by fossil prints in their cells, appeared about 125 million years ago, during the time of dinosaurs and before the appearance of flowering plants. How and why this happened remains a subject of fierce debate among experts.

Aristov and his colleagues conducted a kind of «census» of known types mimic ancient insects, and was looking for new fossil remains of these creatures, studying the vaults of museums, which were kept in fossils since the end of Mesozoic and beginning of Cenozoic the modern geologic era.

In one of these museums Aristov found fingerprints of the body curious «ant» with a length of about 2.4 cm. He lived about 47 million years ago, during the Eocene epoch. His unusual appearance led scientists to enlighten it with the help of three-dimensional scanners and to recover three-dimensional structure of his body.

It turned out that «ant» really was a representative of the group of the so-called alienated, Tarakanovsky invertebrates that is similar to both the cockroaches and mantises in their origin, lifestyle and diet. In addition to «Tarakanova», named Grant viridifluvius in this group, as discovered by Aristov and his colleagues, and many other insects copy the appearance of other Hymenoptera predators.

Interestingly, their study and comparison shows that the nature of their camouflage reflects the diversity and prevalence of copied their predators in that time, when there was each of these species of cockroaches. In other words, they disappeared and reappeared along with those dangerous types of bees, wasps and ants, which they copied.

While the main mystery is why modern cockroaches do not have such a «superpower», and why all members of alienated extinct, leaving no descendants. As scientists hope that further excavation will help them to find the answer to this question.