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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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ScienceShot: Ancient Insects Trapped in Time
27 August 2012 3:05 pm
Roughly 230 million years ago, two mites and a midge got stuck in oozing resin from a now-extinct species of conifer tree in the mountains of northeastern Italy. They never moved again. Despite their ignoble deaths, the insects have now earned the distinction of being the oldest arthropods—invertebrates that include insects, arachnids, and crustaceans—ever found preserved in amber. Arthropods have scuttled and crawled over Earth’s surface for more than 400 million years, but prior to this discovery the oldest specimens collected in amber were only 130 million years old. The three amber-bound arthropods were sorted from roughly 70,000 2 millimeter to 6 millimeter bits of amber (upper left image) excavated from an outcrop in the Italian Dolomite Alps. They date about 100 million years earlier than previously collected specimens, and were probably trapped during a 10-million-year climatic shift that caused the trees to produce more resin than usual, researchers say. Although they could not identify the midge fly due to lack of well-preserved body parts, the mites are intact at a microscopic level of detail, which allowed the team to identify two new species of mites: Triasacarus fedelei (center) and Ampezzoa triassica (right). In their study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report that the mites are the oldest known ancestors of the Eriophyoidea group of mites. Today, this group includes at least 3500 species and has a distinctive body type including bristly appendages called "featherclaws." Their presence in 230-million-year-old amber, researchers say, shows for the first time that mites evolved long before the appearance of flowering plants.
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