Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Hi-tech scans catch prehistoric mite hitching ride on spider

November 09, 2011
Scientists have produced amazing three-dimensional images of a prehistoric mite as it hitched a ride on the back of a 50 million-year-old spider.

At just 176 micrometres long and barely visible to the naked eye, University of Manchester researchers and colleagues in Berlin believe the mite, trapped inside Baltic amber (fossil tree resin), is the smallest arthropod fossil ever to be scanned using X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning techniques.

They say their study - published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters today (Wednesday, 9 November) - also sets a minimum age of almost 50 million years for the evolution among these mites of phoretic, or hitchhiking, behaviour using another animal species.

"CT allowed us to digitally dissect the mite off the spider in order to reveal the important features on the underside of the mite required for identification," said Dr David Penney, one of the study's authors based in the Faculty of Life Sciences. "The specimen, which is extremely rare in the fossil record, is potentially the oldest record of the living family Histiostomatidae.

"Amber is a remarkable repository of ecological associations within the fossil record. In many cases organisms died instantaneously and were preserved with lifelike fidelity, still enacting their behaviour immediately prior to their unexpected demise. We often refer to this as 'frozen behaviour' or palaeoethology and such examples can tell us a great deal about interactions in ecosystems of the past. However, most amber fossils consist of individual insects or several insects together but without unequivocal demonstrable evidence of direct interaction. The remarkable specimen we describe in this paper is the kind of find that occurs only once in say a hundred thousand specimens."

Fellow Manchester biologist Dr Richard Preziosi said: "Phoresy is where one organism uses another animal of a different species for transportation to a new environment. Such behaviour is common in several different groups today. The study of fossils such as the one we described can provide important clues as to how far back in geological time such behaviours evolved. The fact that we now have technology that was unavailable just a few years ago means we can now use a multidisciplinary approach to extract the most information possible from such tiny and awkwardly positioned fossils, which previously would have yielded little or no substantial scientific data."

Co-author Professor Phil Withers, from Manchester's School of Materials, said: "We believe this to be the smallest amber inclusion scanned anywhere to date. With our sub-micron phase contrast system we can obtain fantastic 3D images and compete with synchrotron x-ray systems and are revealing fossils previously inaccessible to imaging. With our nanoCT lab systems, we are now looking to push the boundaries of this technique yet further."

Dr Jason Dunlop, from the Humboldt University, Berlin, added: "As everyone knows, mites are usually very small animals, and even living ones are difficult to work with. Fossil mites are especially rare and the particular group to which this remarkable new amber specimen belongs has only been found a handful of times in the fossil record. Yet thanks to these new techniques, we could identify numerous important features as if we were looking at a modern animal under the scanning electron microscope. Work like this is breaking down the barriers between palaeontology and zoology even further."

University of Manchester


Related Fossil Record Current Events and Fossil Record News Articles


Grand tree of life study shows a clock-like trend in new species emergence and diversity
Temple University researchers have assembled the largest and most accurate tree of life calibrated to time, and surprisingly, it reveals that life has been expanding at a constant rate.

Animal functional diversity started out poor, became richer over time
Like a master painter who uses the same brush techniques to continually create original works of art, evolution has produced unique species to fill new or vacated ecological functions by tinkering with just a few basic body plans that have changed little in hundreds of millions of years.

How were fossil tracks made by Early Triassic swimming reptiles so well preserved?
A type of vertebrate trace fossil gaining recognition in the field of paleontology is that made by various tetrapods (four-footed land-living vertebrates) as they traveled through water under buoyant or semibuoyant conditions.

Fossil database to create cross-discipline collaboration
Have you ever wondered exactly when a certain group of plants or animals first evolved? This week a groundbreaking new resource for scientists went live, and it is designed to help answer just those kinds of questions.

International team of scientists launches fossil database
Have you ever wondered exactly when a certain group of plants or animals first evolved? This week a groundbreaking new resource for scientists will go live, and it is designed to help answer just those kinds of questions.

Swimming reptiles make their mark in the Early Triassic
Vertebrate tracks provide valuable information about animal behavior and environments. Swim tracks are a unique type of vertebrate track because they are produced underwater by buoyant trackmakers, and specific factors are required for their production and subsequent preservation.

The world's oldest known snake fossils: Rolling back the clock by nearly 70 million years
Fossilized remains of four ancient snakes have been dated between 140 and 167 million years old - nearly 70 million years older than the previous record of ancient snake fossils - and are changing the way we think about the origins of snakes, and how and when it happened.

Chinese and American scientists review early evolution of eukaryotic multicellularity
The ascent of multi-celled life or multicellularity is a major evolutionary transition. Multicellularity evolved independently at least 25 times among eukaryotes, and complex multicellularity (characterized by intercellular communication and tissue differentiation controlled by regulatory gene networks) occurs in a handful of eukaryotic groups including animals.

Doubt cast on global firestorm generated by dino-killing asteroid
Pioneering new research has debunked the theory that the asteroid that is thought to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs also caused vast global firestorms that ravaged planet Earth.

New UF study reveals oldest primate lived in trees
Say "primate" and most people wouldn't think of a tree-dwelling, squirrel-like creature that weighs no more than a deck of playing cards, but a new study suggests that may perfectly describe humans' earliest primate ancestors.
More Fossil Record Current Events and Fossil Record News Articles

The Fossil Record

The Fossil Record
by John D. Morris (Author), Frank J. Sherwin (Author)


Evolutionists rely on the fossil record for support of their theory, but what does that record really reveal? ICR geologist Dr. John Morris and zoologist Frank Sherwin unearth the evidence of earth's history and conclude that the fossil record is incompatible with evolution, but remarkably consistent with the biblical account of creation and the great Flood of Noah's day.

Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature

Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature
by Brian Switek (Author)


“Switek seamlessly intertwines two types of evolution: one of life on earth and the other of paleontology itself.”—Discover Magazine““In delightful prose, [Switek] . . . superbly shows that ‘[i]f we can let go of our conceit,’ we will see the preciousness of life in all its forms.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)“Highly instructive . . . a warm, intelligent yeoman’s guide to the progress of life.”—Kirkus Reviews“Magisterial . . . part historical account, part scientific detective story. Switek’s elegant prose and thoughtful scholarship will change the way you see life on our planet. This book marks the debut of an important new voice.”—Neil Shubin“Elegantly and engagingly crafted, Brian Switek’s narrative interweaves stories and characters not often...

Break the Fossil Record (Ivy + Bean, Book 3)

Break the Fossil Record (Ivy + Bean, Book 3)
by Annie Barrows (Author), Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)


World-record fever grips the second grade, and soon Ivy and Bean are trying to set their own record by becoming the youngest people to have ever discovered a dinosaur. But how hard is it to find one?

Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record

Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record
by Michael J. Benton (Author), David A. T. Harper (Author)


This book presents a comprehensive overview of the science of the history of life. Paleobiologists bring many analytical tools to bear in interpreting the fossil record and the book introduces the latest techniques, from multivariate investigations of biogeography and biostratigraphy to engineering analysis of dinosaur skulls, and from homeobox genes to cladistics.
All the well-known fossil groups are included, including microfossils and invertebrates, but an important feature is the thorough coverage of plants, vertebrates and trace fossils together with discussion of the origins of both life and the metazoans. All key related subjects are introduced, such as systematics, ecology, evolution and development, stratigraphy and their roles in understanding where life came from and...

Human Origins : The Fossil Record

Human Origins : The Fossil Record
by Clark Spencer Larsen (Author), Robert M. Matter (Author), Daniel L. Gebo (Author)


An up-to-date pictorial review of the major fossil finds in the world! This updated, introductory guidebook to the fossil record of prehuman and human evolution presents detailed drawings of complete or nearly complete specimens representative of particular grades of evolution. Each drawing (usually shown at 75 percent of original size) is accompanied by appropriate information, including geographical location, approximate age, and general description. Descriptions include information on the context of the discovery and summary anatomical details. The detailed drawings in this highly regarded volume make it an excellent sourcebook for use in departments with limited fossil cast collections.

Pliocene and Pleistocene Records of Fossil Turtles from Western Kansas and Oklahoma University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History Volume 1

Pliocene and Pleistocene Records of Fossil Turtles from Western Kansas and Oklahoma University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History Volume 1


This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record

Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record
by Duane T. Gish (Author)


Paperback: 277 pages Publisher: Creation - Life Publishers (1986) Language: English ISBN-10: 0890511128 ISBN-13: 978-0890511121 ASIN: B004SWDUDA

Planet Ocean: A Story of Life, the Sea and Dancing to the Fossil Record

Planet Ocean: A Story of Life, the Sea and Dancing to the Fossil Record
by Ray Troll (Author), Bradford Matsen (Author)


This is the paperback edition of the great pop-paleontology book with the fabulous art that inspired a show that toured the nation's natural history museums. In its own way it has inspired many people to take a new look at the fossil record and imagine creatures and things as they might have been—a blend of word and image unlike any other.

The Primate Fossil Record (Cambridge Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology)

The Primate Fossil Record (Cambridge Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology)
by Walter Carl Hartwig (Editor)


The Primate Fossil Record is a profusely illustrated, up-to-date, and comprehensive treatment of primate paleontology that captures the complete history of the discovery and interpretation of primate fossils. Each chapter emphasizes three key components of the record of primate evolution: history of discovery, taxonomy of the fossils, and evolution of the adaptive radiations they represent. The volume objectively summarizes the many intellectual debates surrounding the fossil record and provides a foundation of reference information on the last two decades of astounding discoveries and worldwide field research for physical anthropologists, paleontologists, and evolutionary biologists.

The Fossil Book: A Record of Prehistoric Life

The Fossil Book: A Record of Prehistoric Life
by Patricia Vickers Rich (Author), Thomas Hewitt Rich (Author), Mildred Adams Fenton (Author), Carroll Lane Fenton (Author)


Definitive guide provides paleontologists and amateur fossil enthusiasts with invaluable information about finding fossils, caring for samples, and how to study them. Profusely illustrated and expanded edition contains fascinating information about everything from single-celled organisms, arthropods and amphibians, to dinosaurs, birds, and mammals. Includes identification keys, glossary, more. Over 1,500 illustrations.


© 2015 BrightSurf.com