Fossil moth slideshow

  1. The 47-million-year-old Messel shale of west central Germany has yielded many exceptionally preserved fossils, including this one of an ancient moth.

    McNamara et al., PLoS Biology

  2. The fossil moth’s scales are structurally well-preserved but after millions of years their materials have chemically degraded, so they don’t retain their original colour.

    McNamara et al., PLoS Biology

  3. Scanning electronmicrograph showing detail of the fossil moth's scales. Their original colour was determined by chemical composition as well as physical structure.

    McNamara et al., PLoS Biology

  4. The scalloped structure of the scales (seen here in cross-section), as well as perforations in each layer, helped suppress iridescence.

    McNamara et al., PLoS Biology

  5. The closest modern-day relatives of the fossil moths from Germany are forester moths, a day-flying species that feeds on flower nectar.

    McNamara et al., PLoS Biology

  6. The 47-million-year-old moth probably had brilliant yellow-green forewings, which shaded from cyan and blue to brown around the edge.

    McNamara et al., PLoS Biology

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