Mosquito Fossil Found Engorged With 46-Million-Year-Old Blood

Tuesday, 15 Oct 2013 08:17 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A blood-engorged mosquito fossil from 46 million years ago found in northwestern Montana is causing excitement in the science community.

The fossil contains a blood-engorged female mosquito. It is the first of its kind to ever be discovered, Dale Greenwalt, a researcher at Washington, D.C.'s National Museum of Natural History told LiveScience.com.

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What makes the find even more unique is where it was found, having been discovered in shale, rather than amber – the age-old remains of dried tree sap that often preserves insects from the prehistoric period.


"The chances that such an insect would be preserved in shale is almost infinitesimally small," Greenwalt told LiveScience.com.

The fossil find is reminiscent of the Steven Spielberg's 1993 film "Jurassic Park," based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, in which researchers find prehistoric mosquitos preserved in amber and extract their DNA to create an island of dinosaurs for the modern world.

"It's following Crichton's script in that we're using a blood engorged fossil mosquito and in this case we're using the direct descendent of the dinosaurs, given that we're 20 million years late," Greenwalt told the Associated Press.

Its unknown what animal the blood is from, nor is it clear how the insect was so well preserved in the body of water in which it fell into before its death. Greenwalt suggests that the insect had possibly wound up "trapped in a covering of water-suspended algae, which are capable of coating specimens in a sticky, gluelike material, before sinking to the bottom," LiveScience wrote.

Algae has been known to fossilize other insects from that time period, Greenwalt added.

The finding also demonstrates that "blood-filled mosquitoes were already feeding at that time, suggesting that they were around much earlier and could have fed on dinosaurs," George Poinar, a paleo-entomologist at Oregon State University who did not participate in the fossil's research, told LiveScience.com.

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Prior to it being given to the National Museum of Natural History, researchers discovered the mosquito fossil inside a person's basement in a paper-thin piece of shale that was among other rocks that had apparently been collected for the past 25 to 30 years, the AP reported.

Related stories:

Reptile Fossil Found in Alaska May Be Newly Discovered Species

Dinosaur Tail Fossil Found in Canada During Construction Work

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