A 47-million-year-old fossil moth from Messel, Germany. The moth is in glycerine, which make its structural colors appear yellow.
A 47-million-year-old fossil moth wing looks yellow in glycerine. When the moth was alive, the colors would have appeared yellow-green.
An illustration of what the moth's wing patterns looked like in life.
A scanning electron micrograph (SEM image) of the surface of one of the fossil scales showing ridges, microribs, crossribs and perforations
Fossil Moth Scale
Different scale types have different structures. This is an SEM image of a "satin-type" scale.
A scanning electron micrograph (SEM image) of the surface of one of the fossil scales showing microstructures: ridges, microribs and crossribs
Complex structures in moth scales create the colors of the insects' wings. This is a transmission electron micrograph (TEM image) of a fossil scale showing curved surfaces in between the ridges.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.