Original structural color preserved in an ancient leaf beetle

Gengo Tanaka, Hideki Taniguchi, Haruyoshi Maeda, Shin Ichi Nomura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Greenish-blue metallic colored fossil elytra of the leaf beetle (Plateumaris sp.) have been discovered in the peat sediment of the middle Pleistocene (ca. 600 ka) Hirabaru Formation, Kyushu, Japan. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy revealed the smooth outer surface of the fossil elytra and five alternating electron-dense and electron-lucent layers in the epicuticle. By applying the matrix method to the epicuticle, three reflective peaks of wavelengths 388 nm, 544 nm, and 656 nm were computed. These peaks correspond to the reflective color observed under white light. Thus, the coloration of the fossils was caused by multilayer reflectors of the epicuticle of the elytra. Pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometric analysis revealed that the fossil elytra have preserved some of their original macromolecules (chitin, protein, and amino acids), which are similar to those of a related Holocene species. The high-porosity matrix of the peat contains many fragments of diatoms, indicating the high productivity of the water column but a reducing bottom environment. Slight acidity of the interstitial water also seems to contribute to the preservation of some original macromolecules of fossil insects through geologic time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-130
Number of pages4
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology


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