Treasure trove of arthropods found in Cretaceous African amber

Researchers have recently unearthed a bounty of fossil-bearing amber in Ethiopia. These 95 million year old amber pieces contain a variety of life forms including plants, fungai, bacteria, nematodes and many species of arthropods. The arthropods found in the amber include springtails, fairy wasps, thrips, Zorapterans (a species-poor Insect order that I had never heard of), and arachnids. Here are some shots of the arthropod amber inclusions.

Arthropod amber inclusions for Cretaceous Ethiopia. From left to right: A false fairy wasp (Mymarommatidae), a thrips (Merothripidae), and a Zorapteran. Adapted from Schmidt et al., 2010.

These sort of amber fossils are especially useful in piecing together the complex interplay of life in ancient ecosystems. They provide a snapshot of a wide variety of contemporary and interdependent life that other fossil types do not preserve. This find helps fill in some especially troublesome gaps in Cretaceous African biodiversity.

Read more at Wired or get the paper at PNAS; but don’t tell this guy about it:

Interesting trivia: John Hammond in 'Jurassic Park' was played by Richard Attenborough, elder brother of naturalist David Attenborough.

2 Responses to “Treasure trove of arthropods found in Cretaceous African amber”

  1. 1 zombieroach April 7, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Zorapterans are pretty common in the eastern US and easy to find (if you know where to look). They are pretty much only found in logs or wood debris and look like small termites; they often occupy the same habitats. There are only about 30 species in 1 family and only about 3 in the United States. None are in the west except Hawaii.

    Cool pics!

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Michael Bok is a graduate student studying the visual system of mantis shrimp.

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