Photograph by Li S, Shih C, Wang C, Pang H, Ren D
You could call it everlasting love: Scientists have discovered the oldest fossil of mating insects, which lived during the Jurassic period.
A pair of unlucky froghoppers were caught in the act in what’s now northeastern China and preserved in stone over 165 million years ago. Froghoppers are a type of small insect named for their tendency to hop around plants like tiny frogs.
Fossils of mating insects are rare, which creates challenges for scientists studying the evolution of mating position and how genitalia are oriented in insects. (See video: National Geographic’s “Mating Moments.“)
For example, the amorous pair was mating in a belly-to-belly position, much like modern froghoppers mate. This suggests that froghoppers’ mating position and genital symmetry have remain largely unchanged for over 165 million years, according to the study, published November 6 in the journal PLOS ONE.
The remarkably well-preserved fossil also reveals the male’s reproductive organ inserting into the female, and the position of the male’s body segments suggest he was twisting and flexing during sex. (Also see “Mating Turtles Fossilized in the Act.”)