Sapienza University: a fly from 17 million years ago found in amber
A fly from 17 million years ago and perfectly preserved in amber has been found, as in “Jurassik Park”, by an international research group led by Pierfilippo Cerretti from the “Charles Darwin” Department of Biology and Biotechnology at Sapienza University of Rome. It is one of the oldest fossil finds in the world and provides new insight into primordial life on Earth.
The insect – belonging to the Diptera Calyptratae group, the same group as the annoying common fly and the tsetse fly – was found among tens of thousands of fossil resin fragments from Miocene sediments in the Dominican Republic, conserved at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and part of the James Zigras Collection. Following the discovery, the find has been examined in detail via Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) which provided crucial details on the insect’s anatomical details for the identification of the species. The results of the discovery have been published in the journal Plos One.
“It is hard to imagine a world without the nuisance of flies”, said Cerretti . “Who would take their place as efficient decomposers of organic matter? To date there was no fossil available of the Oestroids, the most ecologically diverse and species-rich group amongst the Calyptratae”.
After the scientific analysis, the researchers at Sapienza University of Rome used the fossil to calibrate the phylogenies of Diptera Calyptratae obtained through molecular data, revealing that these insects diverged from the main branch ca. 70 million year ago, just before the mass extinction that took place between the Cretaceous and the Cenozoic Eras, and determined that the origin of large scavenger flies started later in the Eocene (ca. 50 million years ago).
The story of these flies is similar to that of other animal and vegetable groups such as mammals, birds and flowering plants, which have managed to take advantage of the great upheaval of the ecosystem that marked the end of the dinosaur era.