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Sexy bug science: earliest record of copulating insects discovered in China


Fossils of a male froghopper (right) and a female (left) copulating. (Li et al./PLOS ONE)


Love can be cruel. Also, time.

One day it's the mid-Jurassic and you're just a couple of freaky froghoppers getting your freak on; the next, you're totally dead and fossilized and some nosy scientists are diagramming your reproductive organs in an open-access journal.

To wit:

"They exhibit belly-to-belly mating position as preserved, with male's aedeagus inserting into the female's bursa copulatrix." 

The people who wrote the above sentence are a group of scientists from China, and they say the fossilized mating froghoppers they discovered are the earliest-known record of copulating insects. Their study has just been published in PLOS ONE, a leading open-access science journal. 

The find is interesting to entemologists, because how the bugs were fossilized suggests that froghopper genitalia orientation and mating positions haven't changed for 165 million years. (Why mess with something that works?)

It's also interesting because it's incredibly rare to discover insects preserved in flagrante delicto. Only 33 other cases have ever been discovered, and most were encased in amber. 

The earliest one before this is from the Cretaceous and was found in Lebanon. These two guys were discovered from a paleontological site in northeastern China, near Mongolia. 

Froghoppers are so called because they hop around from plant to shrub like tiny frogs. 

In recognition of their everlasting bond, the froghopper species described here has been named Anthoscytina perpetua -- for "perpetual love."



Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Find her on Twitter at @katecallen.


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It's spelled entomologists, not entemologists.

Bow chikka bowow!

Great, now I have insect pr0n on my computer screen-- could we get a "NSFW" warning next time?

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