From mid-June to mid-July, Chenyang Cai, a master's student at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, visited the Division of Insects at the Field Museum. He brought with him a large number of spectacular fossil beetles belonging to the families Silphidae (carrion beetles) and Staphylinidae (rove beetles). Most of the specimens he brought came from the mid-Jurassic Daehugou Biota (165 million years old), plus a few from the Cretaceous Jehol Biota (125 million years old), both occurring in northeastern China. He spent the month working with me and Curator Emeritus Al Newton studying the fossils and the Field Museum's huge collections of extant (modern) beetles of both families. The Jurassic silphids are the oldest known members of that family (some that age reported previously were misidentified), and several of the staphylinids represent the oldest known members of their subfamilies. The number of specimens found in the deposits is staggering, and it will take a lot of work to study them all thoroughly and publish the results. Chenyang is studying the fossil Silphidae for his master's thesis, and in parallel is studying some of the Staphylinidae, on which he plans further work for his Ph.D.
While Chenyang was here, we enjoyed squeezing in work with C&R Media Producer Federico Pardo to create a video about the fossils and our collaborative work, which you can see here.
29 August 2011 update - the video was selected as Imagine Science Films' Pick of the Week and featured on their festival page!