London: Scientists have recreated 305 million-year-old insects which they claim were early ancestors of the cockroach.
Scientists from Manchester University had little to go on other than small holes left in a rock by the decomposing bodies of the insects, but by scanning the `fossils` in a CT scanner - along with 3,000 X-ray scans, they were able to re-produce the insects down to the smallest details.
It allowed the team to learn about the biology, lifestyle and diet of the two long-extinct insects - one of which came with sharp spines to help it avoid predators, the `Daily Mail` reported.
The process is analogous to how scientists could re-create the long-dead citizens of Pompeii by pouring plaster into gaps left in the volcanic ash.
Both are members of a group called the Polyneoptera, which includes roaches, mantises, crickets, grasshoppers and earwigs.
One of the insects reconstructed by the scientists is characterised by a large number of sharp spines. It is a new species and genus which does not exist today.
The other is an early predecessor of one of the great survivors of the insect world, the cockroach, and is one of the best preserved examples of this age ever seen by insect palaeontologists.
Researchers suspect from its well preserved mouthparts that it survived by eating rotting litter from the forest floor.
Taking over 3,000 X-rays from different angles, the scientists were able to create 2,000 slices showing the fossil in cross section.
From these slices the researchers created 3D digital reconstructions of the fossils.
"The most dramatic change is seen in insects like butterflies, which change from a larva, to chrysalis, to adult," said Dr Russell Garwood of the University of Manchester.