The world’s oldest arthropods — invertebrate animals that include crustaceans, arachnids, and insects — have been discovered in Italy, perfectly preserved in amber like a scene right out of Jurassic Park.
The discovery was made in the northeastern part of Italy and includes one fly and two mites that were trapped in millimeter-scale droplets of amber.
Researchers estimate that the 100 million year old arthropods are the oldest discovered to date.
The full study was published in the August 27 edition of the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, and scientists hope it will help them gain a better evolutionary understanding of how organisms on earth have become so complex over the last 100 million years.
David Grimaldi, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, tells Science Daily:
“Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years.”
Arthropods are believed to have existed for the last 400 million years, but, until now, the oldest amber discovered was just 130 million years old and did not include arthropods.
The amber droplets range in size from two to six millimeters long and were discovered in the Dolomite Alps. Researchers Eugenio Ragazzi and Guido Roghi of the University of Padova along with their team of helpers analyzed 70,000 droplets for inclusion into their research, a massive study that left to the discovery of three arthropods.
According to the group, two mites species known as Triasacarus fedelei and Ampezzoa triassica have been discovered.
Researchers will now spend their time analyzing the samples to learn more about the period in which they lived.
[Image credit: Michael Rhys]