44 million year old prehistoric caterpillar discovered in amber In the Baltic Sea

In the Baltic Sea region, researchers have found a caterpillar, preserved in amber.

Researchers have discovered a large butterfly caterpillar trapped in amber. The fossil was once encased in a drop of resin and preserved over time.

Prehistoric caterpillar discovered in amber In the Baltic Sea
Prehistoric caterpillar discovered in amber.

In prehistoric times, the caterpillar would have become a butterfly of considerable size.

A lot of insects - flies, dragonflies or bees - have survived the eons enclosed in hard resin. Paleontologists are able to gain fascinating insights into the world of creatures that lived on Earth millions of years ago.

Now researchers in the Baltic region have discovered for the first time a specimen of a butterfly caterpillar - a previously unknown species. 

The 44 million year old fossil is a larva from the group of the moths (Geometridae), according to the Munich State Zoological Collection. The research team describes the preserved insect in the scientific journal "Scientific Reports".

Baltic amber is widespread in the Baltic Sea region. The butterfly larva, about five millimetres in size, was once enclosed in a drop of resin, which solidified over time to form amber, thereby preserving the animal forever. 

"This is the first time ever that we have encountered such a large butterfly fossil in Baltic Amber," says co-author Axel Hausmann. He received the find from an amber merchant known to him.

The fact that such huge caterpillars were only extremely rarely enclosed in amber is probably due to the fact that these animals were predominantly nocturnal. Hausmann: "And the resin, on the other hand, was probably only liquid at higher daytime temperatures and direct sunlight.

With the conserved larva, the Munich paleontologists have discovered a new species, which was assigned under the name "Eogeometer vadens"

Thilo Fischer, expert on fossilized butterflies and plants and first author of the study, hopes for more spectacular finds from the Baltic Amber. 

Each butterfly fossil provides exciting insights into the evolutionary processes during the era of the Eocene, an epoch in Earth's history that until now has been under-researched, some 34 to 56 million years ago. According to Fischer, the spread of flowering plants, as we know them today, has already been completed to a large extent.

Prehistoric caterpillar discovered in amber
Prehistoric caterpillar discovered in amber

Researchers often make unusual amber discoveries. Most recently, they discovered a 100 million year old flower in a tree resin, a dragonfly during a mating ritual and the tail of a dinosaur.