An international team of scientists led by Timo van Eldijk and Bas van de Schootbrugge from Utrecht University have found the oldest fossil remains of moths and butterflies known to date. They published their results in Science Advances on 10 January 2018.
The fossil remains are more than 70 million years older than the oldest fossils of flowering plants and shed new light on the so-far presumed co-evolution between flowering plants and pollinating insects. The findings also suggest that the end-Triassic mass-extinction event 201 million years ago has not affected moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera). On the contrary, like dinosaurs, it is likely that the event triggered their expansion.
The fossil remains, wing and body scales from the Lepidoptera, were isolated from a core drilled in Northern Germany (Schandelah, Lower Saxony) of sediments straddling the mass-extinction event.