Beetle fossil discovered at Botswana mine dates back to dinosaur age

Posted on 14 April 2024 By Savanna Douglas

Palaeoentomologist Sandiso Mnguni and his team at Wits have recorded a fossil that explores the evolutionary history of beetles, dating back to ninety million years ago.

Findings by Genus Postdoctoral fellow Sandiso Mnguni and his team at Witwatersrand University not only describe a new species of rove beetle, Paleothius mckayi, but broaden our understanding of the evolutionary history of beetles, dating back to the Cretaceous age – a time when dinosaurs thrived.

The research, published in the Journal of Entomological Science, reveals new information about a fossil discovered in Botswana’s Orapa Diamond Mine in the 1980s.

Mail&Guardian details that the specimen was initially photographed and documented to demonstrate the diversity at the Orapa Diamond Mine deposit in the ’80s.

The fossil was then housed in the herbarium of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University for over 30 years, until Mnguni stumbled upon it and ultimately described the specimen.

This particular fossil is categorised under the ‘staphylinine rove beetles’, a group that has not been previously documented in fossil records from Africa or the Southern Hemisphere.

Mnguni explains that the age of the sediments in which these fossils were found aligns with the era when dinosaurs thrived.

“We know this because the sediments from the deposits have been dated using isotopes that you find on the sediments, particularly those that are called zircons,” said Mnguni, in an article published to Daily Maverick

“They’ve given us the details of the sediments … and by virtue of the sediments being 90 million years old, then it means the insects are the same age. That’s how we know that they roamed around with dinosaurs because dinosaurs only became extinct 66 million years ago.” he added.

Read a full account written by Mnguni here. 


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