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For ever and ever: When the wedding flight never ends
Date:1/7/2011

This release is available in German.

Its stay on this planet was actually meant to be a very short one. Male twisted-wing parasites (Strepsiptera) usually have a life span of only few hours. However, accidentally a specimen of Mengea tertiara, about the size of an aphid, became preserved for 'eternity': during its wedding flight about 42 million years ago it was caught in a drop of tree resin and subsequently almost perfectly conserved in a piece of amber.

PD Dr. Hans Pohl of Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) calls this "a very exceptional stroke of luck." Together with colleagues from Jena, Hamburg and New York, the insect researcher at the Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology with Phyletic Museum has now 'resurrected' the fossil insect: using high resolution micro-computer tomography (micro-CT) the anatomy of an extinct insect was completely reconstructed three-dimensionally for the first time.

The researchers did not only get a detailed and realistic impression of the external form of the extinct insect. "The micro-CT also allows us to look into the interior", Dr. Pohl stresses. Whereas the inner organs were destroyed during the process of petrification under high pressure, internal soft tissues are occasionally largely preserved in amber fossils.

About 80 percent of the inner tissues of the fossilized twisted-wing parasite were exceptionally well preserved, as revealed by the recent evaluation of the micro-CT data. Musculature, nervous system, sense organs, digestive and reproductive systems were displayed to the Jena scientists like an open book. With 3D-glasses the insect can be viewed in three dimensions. Only a few mouse clicks are needed to turn it around or to produce virtual sections.

"This leads to important insights in the phylogeny and evolution of these insects", P
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Contact: Ute Schoenfelder
presse@uni-jena.de
49-364-193-1041
Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena
Source:Eurekalert  

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