Feeds

Boffins discover prehistoric moth's dayglo green warning

You eat me, I'll kill you...

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Boffins have reconstructed how a 47-million-year-old moth fossil looked while alive: a psychedelically-coloured insect whose wings both camouflaged it and warned away predators.

fossil_moth

An artist's impression of the original colours
of the moth. Credit: McNamara, ME et al. PLoS Biology

The moth once had yellow, green, blue and brown colouring that helped it blend into leaves and grass when it was resting, but advertised its nasty taste and poisonous nature when the wings were spread.

Yale University palaeobiologist Maria McNamara and her team analysed the fossils of moths that had been preserved in the Messel oil shale in Germany and determined that tiny scales on their wings had once given off these iridescent colours, according to Nature.

The fossil's closest modern-day relatives are the forester moths that live in tropical areas of Eurasia and Australia, which have a metallic sheen to their wings and produce hydrogen cyanide.

McNamara said the reconstruction of the moths' colours let us know how they used to behave. The colours suggest that millions of years ago, some butterflies and moths had already developed the strategies seen today: camouflaging and the ability to produce poison.

However, she did warn that direct comparisons could be stretching the science a bit.

“Biology is unpredictable. The moths may have been doing what their relatives are doing today, or they may have been doing something totally different,” she said.

The study was published in PLoS Biology. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.