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Tiny beetle gives clues for continental drift

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The fossil beetle, Propiestus archaicus, preserved in amber. Photo by Shuhei Yamamoto, Field Museum

By Tauren Dyson, UPI

A small, ancient beetle might provide clues to how the Earth's landmass shifted, a study says.

Researcher Shuhei Yamamoto believes a beetle trapped in piece of Burmese amber from 99 million years ago is the distant ancestor to insects found on the other side of the world today.

He came upon this beetle in 2016, and now he thinks could provide more evidence for the theory of continental drift.

"Like koalas and kangaroos today, certain animals that we think lived in Gondwanaland are only found in one part of the world. Although Propiestus went extinct long ago, our finding probably shows some amazing connections between Southern Hemisphere and Myanmar," Yamamoto said. "Our finding fits well with the hypothesis that, unlike today, Myanmar was once located in the Southern Hemisphere."

Yamamoto published his findings in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

No bigger than the tip of an iPhone charger, the Propiestus lived under rotted tree bark in what is now Myanmar while dinosaurs roamed much of the earth.

"This is a very rare find," said Yamamoto, a researcher at Field Museum of Natural History and lead author of the study.

Today, Propiestus' closest relative is the rove beetle, with a population of nearly 64,000 worldwide. Some rove beetles live in Arizona, but most are believed to inhabit the Southern Hemisphere.

Researchers think Myanmar and South America once fused to form the megacontinent Gondwanaland, which broke off from the larger megacontinent Pangaea.

Many scientists believe Pangaea was once a mass of all of today's combined land. The theory continues that plate tectonics broke up Pangaea and all subsequent mega continents to create today's layout of continents.

Some also think this led to the far distance between the current-day rove beetle and its Propiestus ancestor.

Further research on this theory would require "searching for supporting or contrasting evidence means analyzing fossils, some as small as Propiestus, to compare their similarities to other organisms discovered across the globe that might have inhabited the same space long ago," a Field Museum press release said.

"This fossil helps us understand life in the Mesozoic era," Yamamoto said. "We need to think about everything from that time, both big and small."

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Technology - U.S. Daily News: Tiny beetle gives clues for continental drift
Tiny beetle gives clues for continental drift
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Technology - U.S. Daily News
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