Monday, 4 November 2013

Discovery of mosquito fossil with bellyful of blood

Forty-six million years ago, northwest Montana was a tropical forest of giant ferns, conifers and ginkgos. Tiny primates lived there, as did rhinos and horses and crocs. Along with some less charismatic creatures like mosquitoes. One of those millions of mosquitoes was then blown onto the surface of an ancient lake. Unable to lift off, it eventually sank to the bottom and became a fossil.

The fossil mosquito was recently found and analyzed. Scientists found that its belly contained iron, bound up in a molecule called heme, the compound in blood that carries oxygen. So it appears this sucker died and fossilized with a bellyful of blood, the only known specimen. "This fossilized tree sap waited for millions of years, with the mosquito inside. Until Jurassic Park scientists came along." DNA breaks down too quickly. And this skeeter lived 20 million years after dinos went extinct. Though researchers say it may have dined on birds which are, in some sense, blood relatives.

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