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The courtship rituals among the odonates, an order of insects that includes dragonflies and damselflies, are very striking. Several individuals can take part in them, which seem to dance while flying, and the males usually attract the females by energetically flapping their wings. Zoologists have suspected for years that the ancestors of the current species already performed this type of nuptial dance. However, they did not have fossils to attest to this with certainty, and the few studies that have been carried out on this matter are somewhat ambiguous.
Now, a team of researchers from the Nanking Institute of Geology and Paleontology in China has described this type of behavior from the remains of three male damselflies that were trapped in a block of amber in what is now the north. from Burma in the mid-Cretaceous, between 66 and 145 million years ago.
The specimens, namedYijenplatycnemis huangiThey have spectacular limbs –the tibiae have sheath-shaped elongations– that they probably used to attract females.
In some modern species of the familiesPlatycnemididae YChlorocyphidae, similar structures can be observed, but much less developed. Thus, during courtship, males ofPlatycypha caligatathey show the front part to the females and use the back part as a kind of defense system, to keep their competitors at bay.
In an essay published in the magazineScientific Reports, paleobiologists Daran Zheng and Bo Wang and their collaborators point out thatYijenplatycnemis huangi they used them in the same way, although their limbs are considerably larger and asymmetrical. In the experts' opinion, this also made it easier for other males to notice their presence.