A new soldier beetle belonging to the family Cantharidae, the subfamily Malthininae and the tribe Malthodini has been discovered from Upper Cretaceous Burmese amber, which is about 99 million years old. A description of the extinct soldier beetle was recently published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Burmese amber, the important fossiliferous resin collected from Kachin of Northern Myanmar, is renowned for yielding rich and well-preserved insects.
To date, 25 fossil species in 16 genera of Cantharidae have been described. The oldest fossil record of Cantharidae was reported from the Early Cretaceous Lebanese amber, but the taxonomic placement remains unclear because its posterior body portions were missing.
The new species is called Archaeomalthodes rosetta. The genus name, Archaeomalthodes, is composed of the prefix Archaeo- and the root genus malthodes, which indicates that it’s an ancient relative of the modern-day genus Malthodes. The specific epithet, rosetta, is derived from the Rosetta Stone, referring to the fact that its discovery is the key for researching ancient soldier beetles. The Rosetta Stone is the rock which provided important information for archaeologists to study Ancient Egyptian history and hieroglyphs, and this term is also used idiomatically to refer to the small but representative key in the process of solving mysteries.
A. rosetta is the oldest documented occurrence of the subfamily Malthininae, which originated at least in the Late Cretaceous. This subfamily is the major component of described fossil cantharids, including A. rosetta, which suggests that Malthininae has been possibly considerably diverse during the early evolution of Cantharidae. Additionally, a morphological similarity between Archaeomalthodes and modern-day malthinines and the occurrence of angiosperms in this amber deposits implies a possible flower-visiting behavior of this fossil species.
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