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International Paleontology Research Award to an article on the role of beetles in pollinating flowering plants

A paper published in the journal iScience by experts David Peris and Xavier Delclòs, from the Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics of the Faculty of Earth Sciences and the Research Institute of Biodiversity (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona, ​​has just been awarded the International Paleontology Research Award 'Paleonturology 2021', convened by the Dinópolis Foundation.

The article, published in March 2020, confirms the crucial role of beetles in the origin of the pollination of angiosperms (plants with visible flowers) and their key role in the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems around the planet. As part of the work, the scientific team described the first record of insects — specifically beetles — trapped in pieces of amber about 99 million years ago, while pollinating gymnosperm and angiosperm plants simultaneously, a discovery that was not yet included in the scientific literature. The work also describes a new type of amber fossilized pollen, called Praenymphaeapollenites cenomaniensis.

These pieces of Cretaceous amber, found in deposits in the Kachin region of Myanmar, show new insights into the biology and behavior of four fossil species of beetles in the Kateretidae family. Currently, this group of insects, with less than a hundred species, are pollinators of angiosperm plants in South America and other temperate and subtropical areas of the planet.

Beetles have traditionally been considered one of the earliest groups of pollinating insects on Earth. Specifically, the study reveals that in three pieces of amber, pollen grains found near beetles correspond to gymnosperm plants (with no visible flowers), which are evolutionarily older than angiosperms. In the fourth case, the pollen comes from water lilies, aquatic plants of the nymph family (a very primitive group of angiosperms).

In addition to the scientific quality of the scientific publication, the jury valued very positively the excellent preservation and uniqueness of the fossils, which combine types of records that facilitate the formulation of a complex argument about the participation of different groups of insects in the process of pollination of plants. Thus, the process of transition of these pollinators from a world populated by gymnosperm plants to more modern ecosystems dominated by flowering plants is shown.

The award has been promoted by the Teruel-Dinopolis Paleontological Complex Foundation, in collaboration with the Teruel Paleontological Complex Management Company S.A. (Dinópolis) and the Caja Rural de Teruel. In this edition, sixteen articles have been presented by some eighty authors from leading national and international research centers.

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