230 Million-Year-Old Mite Found in Amber

Cristal Reyes

Amber, besides being a popular name for girls, is a special type of fossilized tree resin which has many uses.

Since the Neolithic era, it has been used to make beautiful jewelry, ornamental items and even perfumes. However, one of its most important uses is to help us learn about the evolution of insects and other small animals.

Since amber comes from the extinct sticky substance of trees, many leaves and insects become entrapped and, most importantly, fossilized in pieces of amber.

Recently, scientists have made an outstanding discovery thanks to amber. In the Dolomite Alps of northern Italy, scientists examined, give or take 70,000 droplets of amber.

This extensive search returned few, but great, results. They found two mites from the Triassic Era, which means that these ‘grandpa bugs’ age in at an outstanding 230 million years old!

Their age poses great significance because about 252 million years ago, mass extinction occurred that lead to the extinction of about 57 percent of insect families.

These small creatures can help scientists come up with new theories of one of the most debated topics in history: evolution.

Even though the mites are extremely old, they are not much different from bugs today.

According to researcher, David Grimaldi, “You would think that by going back to the Triassic you’d find a transitional form of gall mite, but no, even 230 million years ago, all of the distinguishing features of this family were there — a long, segmented body; only two pairs of legs instead of the usual four found in mites; unique feather claws.”

However, scientists are extremely hopeful that they will be able to find even more amber fossilized insects across northern Europe that will eventually lead to even bigger breakthroughs in insect and plant evolution.