Hello Jurassic Park: 95-Million-Year-Old Insects Found Fossilized in Amber


Photo: courtesy of PNAS and Alexander Schmidt, used with permission.
Or Rather, Cretaceous Park
The discovery of splendid fossilized specimens dating back about 95 million years ago in Ethiopia, Africa (though back then the continents weren't in the same relative position) could change our understanding of the origins of some species, including ants, and of the ecology of Cretaceous woodlands. The mainstream theory on ants is that they originated from what is now North-America or East Asia, but a fossilized wingless ant older than previous fossils (see the picture below) could change all that. Many other insects were found, along with an ancestral spider and numerous fungi, ferns and spores. It will probably take a while before scientists learn all they can from those specimen, but in the meantime, check out those photos!
Photo: courtesy of PNAS and Matthias Svojtka, used with permission.

This is what the amber rocks look like. It's basically fossilized tree resin, and sometimes insects that got trapped in the resin get preserved well enough for us to find them.


Photo: courtesy of PNAS and Vincent Perrichot, used with permission.

The paper, which was published by PNAS after 5 years of work by 20 scientists, describes the "Ancient arthropods belonging to the ants, wasps, thrips, zorapterans, and spiders are the earliest African records of these ecologically important groups and constitute significant discoveries providing insight into the temporal and geographical origins of these lineages [...] these findings reveal the interactions of plants, fungi and arthropods during an epoch of major change in terrestrial ecosystems [...] Because of its age, paleogeographic location and the exceptional preservation of the inclusions, this fossil resin broadens our understanding of the ecology of Cretaceous woodlands."


Photo: courtesy of PNAS and Alexander Schmidt, used with permission.

Photo: courtesy of PNAS and Erin Saupe, used with permission.

Photo: courtesy of PNAS and Alexander Schmidt, used with permission.

Photo: courtesy of PNAS and Matthias Svojtka, used with permission.

The samples are spread over the continents: Most are in Berlin and Vienna, but some are in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Thanks to Dr. Alexander Schmidt for the photos!

Via PNAS
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Tags: Insects