Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




EARLY EARTH
Ancient 'fig wasp' lived tens of millions of years before figs
by Staff Writers
Champaign IL (SPX) Dec 16, 2013


Although it lived roughly 65 million years before the earliest known occurrence of figs, the fossil wasp's ovipositor closely resembles those of today's fig wasps. Credit: Nathan Barling and Sam Heads. For a larger version of this image please go here.

A 115-million-year-old fossilized wasp from northeast Brazil presents a baffling puzzle to researchers. The wasp's ovipositor, the organ through which it lays its eggs, looks a lot like those of present-day wasps that lay their eggs in figs. The problem, researchers say, is that figs arose about 65 million years after this wasp was alive.

A report of the findings appears in the journal Cretaceous Research.

The wasp belongs to the Hymenoptera superfamily known as Chalcidoidea, which parasitize other insects, spiders and some plants. The group includes about 22,000 known species and is estimated to contain up to 500,000 species.

"This is a tiny parasitic wasp, it's the smallest fossil wasp found in this particular deposit and it's the oldest representative of its family," said Sam Heads, a paleoentomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois.

"More importantly, it's possible that this wasp was fig-associated, which is interesting because it's Early Cretaceous, about 115 to 120 million years old. That's a good 65 million years or so prior to the first occurrence of figs in the fossil record."

Heads worked in collaboration with University of Portsmouth scientists Nathan Barling and David Martill.

The new findings demonstrate the value of studying insect fossils, Heads said.

"The fossil record of insects is very extensive both geographically and temporally. It goes back 415 to 420 million years and preserves the ancestral forms of a lot of the insects that are alive today," he said. "So it's a great resource for understanding insect evolutionary history and the distribution of insects across the planet in the past."

presence of a wasp with an ovipositor that looks like those used by fig wasps today is not hard evidence that figs were around in the fossil wasp's day - a time of dinosaurs, Heads said.

"There is no evidence of the existence of figs at this time and the most recent molecular study doesn't place figs that far back," he said. While it is possible that figs are older than current studies indicate, it is also possible that "something like a fig was around and this wasp was parasitizing whatever that was."

This could be an example of convergent evolution, where separate species independently evolve similar traits, he said. Or the fossil wasp could be the ancestor of the fig wasp, and its ovipositor, first adapted to a plant or fruit that was around long before the fig, later found a use in figs.

Comparing insect fossils with living organisms offers new insights into the natural history of insects, the plants they pollinate and their hosts or prey, Heads said. This differs significantly from studies of the fossils of animals that have become extinct.

"When you talk about paleontology to people the first thing they think of is dinosaurs," he said. "And that's great. Dinosaurs are really exciting, wonderful animals. But for the most part, they're extinct. With insects and other arthropods like spiders and scorpions, they're around still. So we have modern forms to compare our fossil forms to, which is incredibly useful."

The paper, "A New Parasitoid Wasp (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea) From the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of Brazil: The First Mesozoic Peteromalidae," is available online.

.


Related Links
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Explore The Early Earth at TerraDaily.com






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EARLY EARTH
Iron preserves, hides ancient tissues in fossilized remains
Raleigh NC (SPX) Dec 08, 2013
New research from North Carolina State University shows that iron may play a role in preserving ancient tissues within dinosaur fossils, but also may hide them from detection. The finding could open the door to the recovery of more ancient tissues from within fossils. Mary Schweitzer, an NC State paleontologist with a joint appointment at the N. C. Museum of Natural Sciences, first announc ... read more


EARLY EARTH
Mining the moon is pie in the sky for China: experts

Ancient crater could hold clues about moon's mantle

Minerals in giant impact crater may be clues to moon's makeup, origin

Silent Orbit for China's Moon Lander

EARLY EARTH
NASA poised to launch Mars atmosphere probe

The Tough Task of Finding Fossils While Wearing a Spacesuit

Mars One Selects Lockheed Martin to Study First Private Unmanned Mission to Mars

SSTL selected for first private Mars mission

EARLY EARTH
European consortium space company to offer 'affordable' trips to space

Planning group calls for National Space Policy in Britain

Quails in orbit: French cuisine aims for the stars

Heat Shield for NASA's Orion Spacecraft Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

EARLY EARTH
China deploys 'Jade Rabbit' rover on moon

The Dragon Has Landed

Chinaese moon rover and lander photograph each other

China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover sends first photos from moon

EARLY EARTH
Altitude of International Space Station raised

NASA mulls spacewalks to fix space station

NASA reports coolant loop problem at ISS

Space station cooling breakdown may delay Orbital launch

EARLY EARTH
Arianespace orders 18 rockets for 2 bn euros

Iran sends second monkey into space

SpaceX to bid for rights to historic NASA launch pad

Arianespace to launch GSAT-15 and GSAT-16 satellites for India

EARLY EARTH
Feature of Earth's atmosphere may help in search for habitable planets

Astronomers discover planet that shouldn't be there

Hot Jupiters Highlight Challenges in the Search for Life Beyond Earth

Astronomers find strange planet orbiting where there shouldn't be one

EARLY EARTH
New sensor tracks zinc in cells

Morphing material has mighty potential

Polymers can be semimetals

A Stopwatch for Electron Flashes




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement