and I’m leaving…on the back of a Mayfly…don’t know when I’ll be back again

A mayfly preserved in Dominican amber

Have you heard the word?  Fossils are incredibly neat!  I never took a Paleontology class when I was in college.  Wait.  I’m still in college.  You know what I mean.  Considering that I was of prime impressionable age when Jurassic Park came to theatres, it’s a wonder I don’t study dinosaur bones.

If one of my grants gets funded, I’ll be able to do some fossil work with my beetles.  They’re trapped in amber deposits from millions and millions of years ago.  My wee brain cannot even comprehend this.  Anyway, I’ve been looking at other research that describes or incorporates amber fossils and I just came across this PlosOne article about an Ephemeroptera (mayfly) and Collembola (springtail) symbiotic relationship preserved in amber.  Don’t know what a springtail is?  Prepare to be overloaded with arthropod adorableness.

Isn’t David Attenborough endearing?  Also, fun fact – John Hammond from Jurassic Park was played by David Attenborough’s brother, Richard Attenborough.  I want to attend their family reunion.

Anyway, researchers have discovered a springtail in association with a mayfly in Dominican amber.

Do you see the springtail?

They used this fancy imaging method called X-ray computed tomography to take pictures of the tiny creature.  After examining their images, researchers discovered that the little springtail was holding onto the mayfly with its antennae.  It appears that the springtail was hitching a ride several million years ago.

Hang on there little buddy!

But apparently springtails present in Dominican amber look morphologically very similar to springtails that are living today, so the researchers predict that there are extant taxa (science talk for “living animals”), which exhibit this same behavior.  Neat!

*All images are from the research article*

Reference:  Penney D, McNeil A, Green DI, Bradley RS, Jepson JE, Withers PJ, Preziosi RF (2012) Ancient Ephemeroptera-Collembola Symbiosis Fossilized in Amber Predicts Contemporary Phoretic Associations. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47651

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2 thoughts on “and I’m leaving…on the back of a Mayfly…don’t know when I’ll be back again

  1. Even the name Collembola is neat. It’s fun to say! Co-LEM-bo-la! (-:

    (Learning to catch them for Insect Taxonomy was quite the trick, tho.)

  2. Andrea, yes I agree! I’m no Collembola expert collector by any means, but I’ve usually been pretty successful when litter sifting. It’s amazing the diversity that’s right below our feet!

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