Indeed, a fascinating aspect about early pollinating insects is that they were paired with non-flowering plants (gymnosperms), rather than flowering plants (angiosperms).
Plant-insect interactions, one of the critical bedrocks for modern ecosystems, are largely dominated by insect-angiosperm relationships owing to the hegemony enjoyed by flowering plants since the Late Cretaceous.
An ancient boganiid beetle that was preserved in amber and dates back 99 million years may have pollinated the first insect-pollinated plant: a type of evergreen called a cycad. 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.
The boganiid beetled stuck inside the Myanmar amber hails from the mid-Cretaceous, the upper period of the Mesozoic Era (145 million to 66 million years ago) and has been described as a new species, dubbed Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus.
After cutting, trimming, and polishing the specimen to get a better look under a microscope, Cai's excitement only grew.
Those cycads didn't boast flowers, they did have pollen.
Phylogenetic analyses of the beetle and associated pollen grains conducted by Dr. CAI Chenyang from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) and his colleagues indicated that it was probably a pollinator of early cycads. This makes it the earliest definitive fossil evidence of beetles possible helping pollinate cycads. Liqin Li, an expert in ancient pollen at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, later confirmed that the pollen grains belonged to a cycad.
The finding suggests they could have been pollinating plants for 200 million years - much longer than previously thought.
The authors note findings that found a beetle belonging to the family Boganiidae, and had older relatives - at least in the Jurassic period.
The interesting thing about this insect, aside from the cycad pollen encapsulated along with it, is that it sports a series of special adaptations which indicate it had a pollen diet.