Oldest insects preserved in amber found

Aug. 28, 2012 at 3:54 PM

NEW YORK, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Researchers say insects preserved in amber found in Italy are 100 million years older that any previously collected amber inclusions of arthropods.

The discovery in the Dolomite Alps of northeastern Italy of the preserved arthropods -- invertebrate animals that include insects, arachnids, and crustaceans -- has been dated to 230 millions years ago, breaking the previous record for the oldest specimens preserved in amber by 100 million years, the American Museum of Natural History reported Monday.

The discovery of one fly and two mites found in small droplets of amber could lead to a better evolutionary understanding of the most diverse group of organisms in the world, researchers said.

"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," researcher David Grimaldi in the museum's Division of Invertebrate Zoology said.

The newly discovered arthropods are the first to be found in amber from the Triassic Period, he said.

"There was a huge change in the flora and fauna in the Triassic because it was right after one of the most profound mass extinctions in history, at the end of the Permian.

"It's an important time to study if you want to know how life evolved."

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