An unknown species of an ancient caterpillar, preserved in amber, was discovered by German researchers in the Baltic Sea region in Europe. It is known that the sample found was identified as the larva of a large butterfly species, which was named Eogeometer vadens. The caterpillar, whose age exceeds 44 million years, has a length of 0.2 inches and is the first large fossil butterfly found in Baltic amber.
The oldest caterpillar of the planet
According to an article published on the portal newsweek.com, finds of caterpillars in amber are a rarity in the scientific world due to the predominantly nocturnal lifestyle of most larvae. Having fallen into the trap of resin of an ancient tree, which eventually hardened into amber, the caterpillar waited 44 million years for its discovery, almost completely preserving the details of its structure.
According to the study, the Eogeometer vadens belongs to the Geometridae family of butterflies, whose caterpillars are unusual compared to caterpillars from other groups of butterflies due to the fact that they have only two or three pairs of legs, and not five, the most common number. This reduced number of legs means that they move in a somewhat unusual way.
In addition, butterflies of the Geometridae species are representatives of one of the three largest families of butterflies, containing about 23,000 different species. Most species from this entire family live on trees and shrubs.
According to the researchers, finding a butterfly larva will help to better understand the evolutionary processes that took place during the Eocene, which lasted from 56 to 33.9 million years ago, long before the initial spread of flowering plants. At the same time, scientists note that the discovery of an ancient caterpillar is not the first case in recent months, when scientists announced the discovery of a new species from samples preserved in amber. So, in one of the studies published last month, scientists revealed the existence in the distant past of microscopic creatures who received the unflattering name “mold pigs.” Then unique creatures represented not only a new species, but also a completely new class of invertebrate animals.