September 27, 2012

Ancient insects pictured in 3D

High-resolution fossil scans give detailed portraits of 305-million-year-old juvenile insects.

Researchers have constructed three-dimensional (3D) portraits of two 305-million-year-old insect nymphs by scanning their fossils with X-rays. The results, reported today in PLoS ONE1, are the most detailed pictures yet of juvenile insects of that period.

One of the specimens, characterized by sharp spines on its body and head, belongs to an unknown species and genus. The authors have called it Anebos phrixos, from the Greek meaning "young and bristling". The other is similar to a modern cockroach. But exact classification of both organisms is complicated — their adult counterparts could have been very different, owing to the changes insects undergo throughout their life cycles.