A 50-million-year-old grasshopper fossil found by researchers has caused quite a stir in the scientific community. This unique specimen belongs to the extinct species Arethaea solterae, also known as filamentous grasshoppers. It was named after Lellen Salter, a retired insect pathologist who is a colleague of the study’s lead author.
This discovery provides valuable information about the evolutionary history of grasshoppers. Katydids are rare in the fossil record, so each new find becomes an important puzzle in understanding their evolution. According to Sam Heads, study leader and director of the Prairie Research Institute’s Center for Paleontology, this discovery confirms that about 50 million years ago, the genus Arethaea already had a morphology that allowed it to mimic grass and hide from predators.
The most surprising feature of this fossil, however, is the preservation of its internal organs. Researchers found muscles, digestive tract, glands and even one testicle. Normally, this level of preservation is not seen in fossils of this type. Sam Heads notes that the preservation of intestinal traces in the specimens is not unusual, but after a more detailed study, the team of scientists found evidence of pectoral muscles connected to the wings or lateral muscles, as well as a “fat body” and a testicle.
These findings were analyzed against dissected grasshopper specimens and were found to be nearly identical. The testes, accessory glands, and ventricle in the extinct Arethaea solterae were the same as in modern grasshoppers. This opens up new opportunities for studying the evolution and adaptation of these insects.
The fossil was found in the Green River Formation, known for its beautifully preserved fossils. It is a famous fossil bed extending across three states. However, despite the area’s reputation, researchers have been shocked by the level of preservation of this fossil. Sam Heads says he has never before seen such a structure preserved by rock compression.
This discovery is of great value to paleontology and evolutionary biology. It provides an opportunity to better understand the past and evolution of grasshoppers, as well as expanding our knowledge of the insect world as a whole.