For The First Time, We’ve Examined The Stomach Contents of a 47-Million-Year-Old Fly

Researchers have identified a 47-million-year-previous fossilized fly with a bloated belly definitely entire of pollen.

The discovery is the initially immediate evidence that some species of historical tangle-veined flies the moment fed on the microspores of a number of diverse species of subtropical plant.


“The wealthy pollen material we identified in the fly’s abdomen indicates that flies were being now feeding and transporting pollen 47 million decades in the past and exhibits it played an essential role in the pollen dispersal of quite a few plant taxa,” states botanist Fridgeir Grímsson from the College of Vienna, Austria.

When most folks imagine of a pollinator, they envision a fowl, a bee, or a butterfly. Incredibly handful of think about the fly, even however it is really commonly acknowledged to be the second most important insect pollinator.

These days, tangle-veined flies with limited, tongue-like buildings regarded as proboscises, have been utterly ignored as probable pollen carriers. In simple fact, only modern-day nemestrinids with extensive sucking appendages have at any time been noticed feeding on tubular crops, and even then, only on nectar.

The new fossil, which was found in a disused quarry around Frankfurt, Germany, represents a novel species of historical, small-proboscid fly (Hirmoneura messelense) that seems to have experienced quite the appetite for pollen.

The authors assume this pollinating insect may perhaps at the time have even outshined bees.

Fossil information that expose direct pollen feeding are very exceptional, but the previous meal of this fly has been remarkably preserved. Below the microscope, its gut and stomach clearly show traces of pollen from at the very least 4 plant families, like water willows and virgin ivy, which in all probability grew about the forest margins of an historical lake.

fa95c15c07Fossilized fly and its gut and tummy contents. (Senckenberg)

The scientists could also see lengthy hairs – also known as setae – on the fly’s thorax or abdomen. Though no pollen was observed on these hairs, the truth that these very long bristles exist indicates they could also have transported pollen when the fly bounced from flower to flower.

As opposed to other flower-traveling to flies with long proboscises, which usually hover previously mentioned plants to feed, this certain fly possibly landed on the tops of bouquets, “in advance of engulfing pollen from anthers”, the group writes. In actuality, the fly’s proboscis is so small, it can be not even noticeable. Scientists feel it really is likely concealed within the insect’s head. 


The flowers it appears to have fed on are normally packed tightly alongside one another, which would have permitted the insect to conveniently walk concerning them – feeding on just one meal after yet another.

A few not known pollen forms in the fly’s tummy also propose it fed on a combine of mother or father plants which grew in close proximity.

“It is very likely that the fly prevented very long-distance flights involving food items resources and sought pollen from carefully involved plants,” clarifies Grímsson.

f7a6748b18Fossil pollen from the tummy of the fly. (Fridgeir Grímsson)

Even though fashionable flower-visiting flies are not rather as productive at transporting pollen as bees, they make up for it by way of sheer figures. Investigation into these pollinators has extensive been neglected and reports are couple and significantly concerning.

This new discovery supports an old speculation that in some modern-day tropical environments, flower-viewing flies may well be at least as important as some pollinating bees – perhaps even additional so. The point that we observed pollen in the belly of an ancient fly indicates this could have been an crucial part for the insect as far back as the Jurassic period of time.

“The fossil tangle-veined fly introduced herein clearly fed on angiosperm pollen and, therefore, signifies the to start with immediate proof of a pollinivorous nemestrinid,” the authors conclude.

The study was revealed in Current Biology.