Social insects have “guests” that take up residence (uninvited) in the nest. Several species of beetles can be found within termite mounds. Fossils of termitophile beetles are present in Baltic amber indicating that beetle-termite relationships date to at least 19 million years ago.
Amber excludes oxygen, prevents decomposition and preserves many insect features intact. Baltic amber yields many insect fossils from as long ago as 44 million years. The Burmese Amber deposits in Myanmar date to 105 million years ago. Fossils in Burmese Amber can extend our knowledge of insect life 100 million years ago.
The fossil of a termitophile beetle, Genus Cretotrichopsenius has been described from Burmese Amber. This extends the time when beetle – termite associations are known to have existed to at least to 99 million years ago. Termites have existed for about 200 million years. It is probable that beetles associated with termites shortly after termites evolved.
The termitophile fossil, Cretotrichopsenius, has some features of modern termitophile beetles, including a protective cuticle that extends over its head and long sensory structures that extend from behind the body. These features help the beetle survive attacks by soldier termites until it can accumulate the nest odor of the termites which will disguise the beetles from the termites.
*Chenyang Cai, Diying Huang, Alfred F. Newton, K. Taro Eldredge, Michael S. Engel. Early Evolution of Specialized Termitophily in Cretaceous Rove Beetles. Current Biology. Volume 27, Issue 8, p1229–1235, 24 April 2017.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.009 |