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An Eternal Love Story of Froghopper—Oldest Fossil of Mating Insects Is Discovered in China

A pair of froghopper died when they were having sex, covered by fine, poisonous, volcanic ash and became a fossil until being discovered recently by Chinese scientists. Researchers analyzed the remains of the pair of the champion-jumper insects and found that froghoppers have been having their sex life in the same way for 165 million years.

This record of ancient insect sex from Mid-Jurassic Period is unusual: There are only 33 other instances of preserved mating insects, most trapped in amber. Being discovered in northeastern China, this new fossil not only represents a new species of froghopper, Anthoscytina perpetua, it also gives the oldest example of insect sex by around 60 million years—the second oldest one is from 100 million years.


The newly discovered fossil of mating froghoppers (right) and the associated scene reconstruction (left). *Image source: Li S, et al., PLoS ONE 8, 11 (2013)

When taking a close glimpse into the vintage insect copulation, one may find that the two froghoppers might be perching on a stem in a belly-to-belly position. The detailed preservation also reveals that the male abdomen was flexible and segmented: The two fossilized insects would have likely assumed a side-by-side position when they were mating on a flat surface such as a leaf, as current froghoppers do.

Researchers assumed that when the two were closely leaning to each other, the poisonous substances generated by volcano eruption killed them and near microorganisms, making the moment of creating life into a silent, eternal love story.


An image of modern froghopper copulation. *Image source: Li S, et al., PLoS ONE 8, 11 (2013)


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