A unique camouflaged mimarachnid planthopper from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber
Predation is a major driving force for the evolution of functional forms. Avoidance of visual predators has resulted in different kinds of anti-predator defences, such as: camouflage, crypsis, disruptive coloration, and masquerade or mimesis. Camouflage is one of the forms involving shape, colouration, structure and behaviour when the visual pattern and orientation of an animal can determine whether it lives or dies. Inferring the behaviour and function of an ancient organism from its fossilised remains is a difficult task, but in many cases it closely resembles that of its descendants on uniformitarian grounds. Here we report and discuss examples of morphological and behavioural traits involving camouflage named recently as a flatoidinisation syndrome, shown by the inclusion of a planthopper in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. We found a new genus and species of an extinct Cretaceous planthopper family Mimarachnidae showing peculiar complex morphological adaptations to camouflage it on tree bark. Due to convergence, it resembles an unrelated tropiduchid planthopper from Eocene Baltic amber and also a modern representatives of the planthopper family Flatidae. Flattening of the body, the horizontal position of the tegmina at repose, tegmina with an undulating margin and elevated, wavy longitudinal veins, together with colouration and more sedentary behavioral traits enable these different insects to avoid predators. Our discovery reveals flatoidinisation syndrome in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber which may provide insights into the processes of natural selection and evolution in this ancient forest.