Navigation Links
Ancient 'fig wasp' lived tens of millions of years before figs
Date:12/5/2013

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. 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."

The 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."


'/>"/>

Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Ancient minerals: Which gave rise to life?
2. Unusual greenhouse gases may have raised ancient Martian temperature
3. Acid raid, ozone depletion contributed to ancient extinction
4. Ancient, modern DNA tell story of first humans in the Americas
5. Visualizing the past: Nondestructive imaging of ancient fossils
6. A new scorpion species from ancient Lycia
7. Reading ancient climate from plankton shells
8. The mysterious scarab beetles: 2 new species of the endangered ancient genus Gyronotus
9. Lampreys provide hints to ancient immune cells
10. Ancient whale coprolites, fault slickensides, shergottites, Ediacara, and Cascadia
11. Extinct ancient ape did not walk like a human, study shows
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Ancient 'fig wasp' lived tens of millions of years before figs
(Date:3/2/2017)... 2, 2017 Summary This report ... Merck KGaA and its partnering interests and activities since ... Description The Partnering Deals and Alliance since 2010 ... of one of the world,s leading life sciences companies. ... purchase to ensure inclusion of the most up to ...
(Date:2/28/2017)... 2017 News solutions for biometrics, bag drop ... ... 14 to 16 March, Materna will present its complete end-to-end ... travel is a real benefit for passengers. To accelerate the ... passenger touch point solutions to take passengers through the complete ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... LONDON , Feb. 22, 2017 ... by 2021, ABI Research identifies four technologies that ... solutions to secure significant share in the changing ... payments, and passive authentication.   "Companies ... it comes to security," says Dimitrios Pavlakis ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:3/28/2017)...  Viking Therapeutics, Inc. ("Viking") (NASDAQ: VKTX), a clinical-stage ... for metabolic and endocrine disorders, today announced that its ... deliver a corporate presentation at H.C. Wainwright & Co.,s ... April 3, 2017 at the St. Regis Hotel in ... are as follows: H.C. Wainwright ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... March 28, 2017 Focus ... unpredictable sector due to the scientifically intensive operations ... medical, agricultural, environmental, and industrial. In today,s pre-market research, ... Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: PTLA), OvaScience Inc. (NASDAQ: OVAS), ... Inc. (NASDAQ: OCUL ). Learn more ...
(Date:3/27/2017)... WARREN, N.J. , March 27, 2017 Roka ... providing advanced testing solutions for the detection of foodborne pathogens, ... at the Sidoti & Company Spring 2017 Convention on March ... the New York Marriott Marquis. About Roka ... ...
(Date:3/27/2017)... , March 27, 2017  The global market ... 2016, according to a new report from Kalorama ... testing is performed to evaluate disease progression, monitor ... among other reasons.  The healthcare market research firm,s ... , provides an overview of the medical laboratory ...
Breaking Biology Technology: