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The scientists contacted experts studying modern insects, who deflated their hopes of identifying butterflies.

In the textbook example of coevolution, butterflies developed proboscises in response to plants that developed flowers.

The more intricate the flower's nectar spur, the more intricate the insect slurper became.

Four decades later, biologists in Madagascar discovered an African hawkmoth with a wiry proboscis more than 10 inches long.

But plants did not evolve flowers until 130 million years ago, according to the earliest fossil flowers.

Van de Schootbrugge enlisted an undergraduate student named Timo J. The acid reduced the rock cores to what van Eldijk called “black organic smudge.” Out of this smudge he had to isolate the scales, which to the naked eye look just like a pile of dust.

He embedded the dust in a mixture of His investigation revealed that the scales were divided into two types.The University of Bonn scientist, an expert in extinct insects, had just published an extensive phylogeny, or family tree, describing 479 million years of insect evolution.Strother, who kept images of the curious scales on his computer, whipped out the photos.But moth and butterfly scales are present in the rock cores on both sides of the extinction divide.“If anything, these butterflies probably profited” from the ecological niches left open by vanished species, van Eldijk said.One set of scales was solid all the way through and compact as steamrolled almonds — “primitive,” van Eldijk called them.

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