Less well-known is the pollinating abilities of bees, which dates back to millions of years and involves non-flowering plants or gymnosperms. This discovery suggests an ancient origin for beetle pollination of cycads long before the rise of flowering plants.
Beetles were among the first insects to visit flowers, tens of millions of years before bees or butterflies appeared.
They remain essential pollinators today, especially for ancient species such as magnolias and spicebush.
Pollination of plants by animals - a story that began long before the appearance of angiosperms.
Those cycads didn't boast flowers, they did have pollen.More news: Sarri, Emery off to divergent starts in race for top four
They may have been the first insect-pollinated plants - and the beetle described in Current Biology is the earliest definitive fossil evidence. It had a large head, slightly wider ithan ts thorax, sharp claws, big antennae and giant, protruding eyes.
Dr Cai explained: "These features probably suggest an open habitat, and most likely habitation on the surface of gymnosperms".
Just like its conifer and Ginko cousins, cycads are non-flowering plants that bear their seeds in the form of cones.
The Early Jurassic is a geological period that spans from 201.3 to 174.1 million years ago.
When Cai's supervisor Diying Huang at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, first showed him the beetle trapped in amber, he was immediately intrigued. Cai says it's very probable that beetle pollination of cycads evolved before the eventual breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent during the Early Jurassic, some 167 million years ago. What is more fascinating is that, after we did some preparation of the sole amber piece - cutting, trimming and polishing - under high-magnification compound microscopy, we found many tiny pollen grains by the side of the beetle.More news: Potrait of Kofi Annan, the peacemaker
Dr. Cai examined the beetle thoroughly and minutely and spotted dozens of pollen's specks, some of which were even clustered in clumps, alongside the beetle.
After that Liqin Li from the Chinese Academy of Sciences concluded the pollen actually belonged to an ancient cycad.
The researchers also conducted an extensive phylogenetic analysis to explore the beetle's family tree. It is known that this beetle-Paganini has a close relationship with samples, found in South Africa and Australia, which belong to the preceding Jurassic period. It is assumed that from that time on, the main partners of the cycads was made by beetles of the family Boganiidae.
The findings together with the distribution of modern boganiid beetles lead Dr cai to suspect similar beetle pollinators of cycads are yet to be found.
He's been looking for them for the last five years.More news: Tsurenko upsets defending champion Muguruza in Cincinnati
A almost 100 million-year-old boganiid beetle found trapped in Burmese amber was the basis for the study and there were grains of cycad pollen trapped in the amber with the beetle.