Two new species of ancient gall mites in 230-million-year-old amber droplets were found from northeastern Italy
(Photo : University of Göttingen/A. Schmidt)
Scientists might have discovered the oldest arthropods in history in a preserved piece of amber. Arthropods are invertebrate animals, which includes arachnids, crustaceans, and insects. To be specific, the three arthropods found were two mites and a fly.
The insects were found in millimeter-scaled droplets of amber in Italy and are predicted to be 100 million years older than the latest arthropod found.
According to Phys.org, the discovery of not just the arthropods but the amber might pave the way for "better evolutionary understanding of the most diverse group of organisms in the world."
"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," said Curator in the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology and corresponding author David Grimaldi.
Grimaldi is also considered as a world authority on amber and fossil arthropods.
The discovered arthropods can be traced back to the Triassic Period, approximately 230 million years ago.
The amber, ranging from two to six millimeters long, was in the Dolomite Alps of Italy and excavated by the University of Padova's Guido Roghi and Eugenio Ragazzi. The arthropods were further tested by Grimaldi and Every Linquist, an expert on gall mites at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
The two mites were recorded as two new species, named Triasacarus fedelei and Ampezzoa triassica. It is likely the mites only ate leaves and ultimately preserved themselves on those same types of leaves.
The third insect found, the fly, seems to have trouble being identified. The fly was not well preserved and researchers have had trouble matching the insect's antennae.
Further challenges the scientists faced was patience. Screening the amber too two years and under the eye of several assistants. The findings can be found in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."