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Cockroach ancestor that lived 300 million years ago 'revealed'

British scientists have unveiled an early ancestor of the cockroach which they claim lived 300 million years ago, in a new 3D "virtual fossil" model.

world Updated: Apr 14, 2010 15:12 IST

British scientists have unveiled an early ancestor of the cockroach which they claim lived 300 million years ago, in a new 3D "virtual fossil" model.

A team at Imperial College London has, in fact, made a comprehensive 3D model of fossilised specimen Archimylacris eggintoni, which is an ancient ancestor of modern cockroaches, mantises and termites, in the 'Biology Letters' journal.

This insect scuttled around on Earth during the Carboniferous period 359 to 299 million years ago, which was a time when life had recently emerged from the oceans to live on land, the scientists say.

Their study reveals, for the first time, how Archimylacris eggintoni's physical traits helped it to thrive on the floor of Earth's early forests. The fossils of these creatures are normally between 2 cm and 9 cm in length and approximately 4 cm in width.

"The Carboniferous period is sometimes referred to as the age of the cockroach because fossils of Archimylacris eggintoni and its relatives are amongst the most common insects from this time period. They are found all over the world," said scientist Russell Garwood.

"People joke about it being impossible to kill cockroaches and our 3D model almost brings this one back to life. Thanks to our 3D modelling process, we can see how Archimylacris eggintoni's limbs were well adapted for all terrains, as it was not only adept in the air but also very agile on the ground," he added.