Before there were flowers on Earth, there were butterflies. And moths.
That’s what scientists found after analyzing 70 fossils of wing scales and scale fragments unearthed in northern Germany. These 200-million-year-old fossils, which date to the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, are the oldest evidence on record of insects in the order Lepidoptera, the researchers said.
Some of the fossils share features with modern moths in the suborder Glossata, which have a straw-like proboscis that can suck up fluids like nectar. Given their complexity, and the time it would’ve taken to evolve to have such complex features, these fossils push the calculated age of glossatan moths back by about 70 million years to the Late Triassic “refuting ancestral association of the group with flowering plants,” the researchers wrote in the study. [In Photos: Beautiful Butterflies of the American Deserts].