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The fossil record of insect color illuminated by maturation experiments

Maria E. McNamara, Derek E. G. Briggs, Patrick J. Orr, Neal S. Gupta, Emma R. Locatelli, Lin Qiu, Hong Yang, Zhengrong Wang, Heeso Noh and Hui Cao
The fossil record of insect color illuminated by maturation experiments
Geology (Boulder) (February 2013) 41 (4): 487-490


Structural coloration underpins communication strategies in many extant insects but its evolution is poorly understood. This stems, in part, from limited data on how color alters during fossilization. We resolve this by using elevated pressures and temperatures to simulate the effects of burial on structurally colored cuticles of modern beetles. Our experiments show that the color generated by multilayer reflectors changes due to alteration of the refractive index and periodicity of the cuticle layers. Three-dimensional photonic crystals are equally resistant to degradation and thus their absence in fossil insects is not a function of limited preservation potential but implies that these color-producing nanostructures evolved recently. Structural colors alter directly to black above a threshold temperature in experiments, identifying burial temperature as the primary control on their preservation in fossils. Color-producing nanostructures can, however, survive in experimentally treated and fossil cuticles that now are black. An extensive cryptic record is thus available in fossil insects to illuminate the evolution of structural color.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 41
Serial Issue: 4
Title: The fossil record of insect color illuminated by maturation experiments
Affiliation: Yale University, Department of Geology and Geophysics, New Haven, CT, United States
Pages: 487-490
Published: 20130220
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 19
Accession Number: 2013-023717
Categories: Invertebrate paleontology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: GSA Data Repository item 2013127
Illustration Description: illus.
Secondary Affiliation: University College Dublin, IRL, IrelandBryant University, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2022, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201315
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