Did you know, ...

... what Jurassic Park has to do with reality?

Scientists extracted blood from insects that had been fossilized in amber and used it to breed dinosaurs. This idea provides the basis of the novel Jurassic Park, but it has nothing to do with reality: DNA molecules have half-life of only 500 years, so after many millions of years, they are completely denatured. When examining insects fossilized in amber, scientists mainly focus on determining the insects' species in order to find out more about the fascinating history of life on earth.

Sam Heads and Jared Thomas at the University of Illinois (USA) recently discovered a new species of locust with the aid of a ZEISS stereo microscope. This tiny grasshopper, which is the size of a rose thorn, lived 18 to 20 million years ago. It has vestigial wings and thus represents a transitional form between the winged ancestors and wingless species of a specific subfamily that exists today.

The research team named this discovery Electrotettix attenboroughi. The species is called after the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, brother of actor Richard Attenborough. The amber sample comes from the Dominican Republic. The recently re-discovered amber collection from the 1950s contains locusts as well as fossilized flies, stingless bees, gall midges, ants, wasps, bark beetles, mites, spiders, plant parts and even a mammal hair. The vast collection may yet reveal one or two more scientific discoveries, but since it comes from a recent geological period, there definitely won't be any dinosaur blood!

 

17 December 2014