A scientific team has discovered the first evidence of sexual courtship behavior in the fossil record of collembola — small wingless, hexapod arthropods in close proximity to insects — dating back about 105 million years. The study, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE , also documents the oldest evidence of aggregation in these hexapods that are present in most terrestrial ecosystems. The authors of the new research are the experts Alba Sánchez and Xavier Delclòs, from the Faculty of Earth Sciences and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio ) of the University of Barcelona; Enrique Peñalver, from the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain ( IGME) , and Michael S. Engel, from the University of Kansas (United States). Hexapods – a subphylum of arthropods that also includes insects – are the organisms that show the greatest diversity of
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mating patterns and social behaviors. However, Portugal Email Lists direct or indirect evidence of this type of behavior is very scarce in the fossil record. In the new study, the scientific team has documented two of the behaviors that are also observed in current forms in two extinct species of springtails. This new discovery is based on the analysis of various pieces from the Cretaceous amber deposit of Peñacerrada (Spain), which is a world benchmark in the study of Mesozoic fossils. Males with prehensile antennae In the research, the authors have studied a male springtail – a specimen of the fossil species Pseudosminthurides stoechus very well preserved in amber – that has modified antennae to be able to hold the female during fertilization. This species belongs to the Sminthurididae family , a lineage that is currently represented by a dozen genera of cosmopolitan
distribution that are usually found on the surface of the water. As explained by Professor Xavier Delclòs, from the Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics of the UB and IRBio, “although in most of the collembola families there are no marked differences between males and females, in the Sminthurididae family —and also in the fossil species that we have described— the males are characterized by presenting prehensile antennae to hold the females ”. The challenge of courtship on the water Collembola inhabit a wide variety of terrestrial environments and can also be found in some aquatic environments. The transfer of sperm from male to female in collembola is a particularly complex process when performed on the surface of the water. For this reason, in aquatic species it is common to find morphological modifications and behaviors that facilitate reproduction.