Paleontologists discover firefly ancestor nearly 100 mln years old

NANJING, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Paleontologists from China, the Czech Republic and Britain have discovered an insect specimen, believed to be the ancestor of the firefly, the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said Wednesday.

The insect, named Cretophengodidae, was found in an amber from Myanmar, which is approximately 99 million years old, thus dating back to the golden age of dinosaurs.

The research team studied more than 20,000 pieces of amber fossils and found a well-preserved male specimen. The insect is about 7 mm long and has bigger eyes and softer body compared to the firefly found today.

Paleontologists believe that light production initially evolved in the insect's soft and vulnerable larvae as a defense mechanism to ward off predators, while today, the glow is used to locate mates.

The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Jan. 20.

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