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A 120 million-year-old insect wing has something to say about China

News Agencies | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 7:12 IST

A student in China has discovered a 120 million-year-old fossil that belonged to an ancestor of the modern long-horned grasshopper.

The fossil, found in Yumen in Gansu province, preserved a 3-cm section of the ancient insect's wing.

"Most insects only have their wings preserved in the fossils," Wang He, who unearthed the fossil was quoted as saying by the state-run China Daily.

"Their bodies, unlike the wings, were easily decomposed or eaten by other creature. Judging from the wing, the strata where the fossil was found and the nearby associated fossils, we can be sure that the insect was the ancestor of the modern katydid," said Wang, who is doing post-graduate work at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The structure of the wing indicates the ancient insect could sing like the modern ones, though the modern katydid has weaker wings and reproductive organs than its ancestor, Wang said.

Zhang Haichun, a paleontology professor at the institute, said fossils of the orthopteran family Prophalangopsidae have only been found in other parts of China and other regions of the world.

First such find in Gansu

"Such insects have not been found in Gansu province before," Mr. Zhang said. "It indicates that the province, which is dry now, used to be humid and full of water systems, because the insects need to grow in a humid environment."

He said the insects lived in the Cretaceous Period, when the world's earliest flowers began to appear, and they ate flowers and plant leaves.

The fossil is kept at the institute, which has proper preservation facilities.

First published: 30 October 2015, 11:20 IST