Ancient bug's last supper of blood still in fossil

Oct 14, 2013 by Seth Borenstein
This image provided by the Smithsonian Institution shows a fossilized female mosquito in a paper-thin piece of shale. The 46 million year-old insect drew blood in its last meal, was blown into a lake in what is now northwestern Montana and sank, belly still full. It's a first for biology, a blood meal found intact in a fossil. (AP Photo/Smithsonian Institution, Dale Greenwalt)

In a steamy tropical forest 46 million years ago, a prehistoric mosquito bit a critter, drew blood and was blown into a lake in what is now the northwestern state of Montana. Belly full, she died and sank.

Flash forward to the present. Researchers found the minuscule female insect fossilized in a paper-thin piece of shale—which had sat in someone's basement for 25 to 30 years with other rocks— and concluded it still contains its last supper. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science reports a first for biology: a meal found intact in a fossil.

While the scenario sounds eerily similar to the Michael Crichton book and movie "Jurassic Park," no new T. rexes will result.

Unfortunately for would-be dinosaur cloners, the mosquito flew long after dinosaurs went extinct, and its meal was probably blood from a dino descendant, a bird. And an even bigger blow to the "Jurassic Park" scenario is that scientists have long known that DNA from other critters couldn't survive in insect fossils, said study lead author Dale Greenwalt, a retired biochemist who collects and analyzes insect fossils from Montana for the Smithsonian Institution.

So this is more a scientific curiosity, a look-what-we-found, that starts out like early chapters of the sci-fi thriller.

"It's following Crichton's script in that we're using a blood engorged fossil mosquito and in this case we're using the direct descendent of the dinosaurs, given that we're 20 million years late," Greenwalt said.

Using two different types of light-refracting x-rays that determine what chemicals are present, Greenwalt and colleagues determined that the female mosquito's belly was full of iron, a major feature of blood that gets oxygen to the rest of the body. Iron levels were higher than elsewhere in her body and anywhere on a non-biting male used as a control subject. Then the team found evidence of porphyrins, which are bound to iron in blood. Putting the two together makes "a definitive case" for blood, Greenwalt said.

Outside expert Mary Schweitzer of North Carolina State University said while the study is exciting and significant, it is preliminary and she thinks Greenwalt's team didn't prove their conclusion that it is blood by ruling out all other possibilities.

Explore further: New volume documents the science at the legendary snowmastodon fossil site in Colorado

More information: Hemoglobin-derived porphyrins preserved in a Middle Eocene blood-engorged mosquito, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1310885110

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Osiris1
1.2 / 5 (17) Oct 14, 2013
Jurassic Park is vindicated now.
VendicarE
3.8 / 5 (8) Oct 14, 2013
From the article...

"And an even bigger blow to the "Jurassic Park" scenario is that scientists have long known that DNA from other critters couldn't survive in insect fossils, said study lead author Dale Greenwalt, a retired biochemist who collects and analyzes insect fossils from Montana for the Smithsonian Institution."

Poor Osiris. You have humiliated yourself.
obama_socks
1.4 / 5 (16) Oct 14, 2013
However, all they are able to say is that the insect drew blood, but it is inconclusive as to what the blood derived from. And yet, they conjecture that "and its meal was probably blood from a dino descendant, a bird."

Then they conjecture again, with a mol repetition of their first guess, with ""It's following Crichton's script in that we're using a blood engorged fossil mosquito and in this case we're using the direct descendent of the dinosaurs, given that we're 20 million years late," Greenwalt said.

The blood could have come from a mammal rather than a bird. Being that the mosquito is female, then the substance in her belly is most likely blood.
Sinister1811
1.9 / 5 (14) Oct 15, 2013
As interesting as it is, it was a bird, and it was only iron from the blood. Just goes to show how far sci-fi movies like Jurassic Park are from reality.
Sinister1811
2.1 / 5 (15) Oct 15, 2013
But I still would've loved to hear about dino DNA. :/
Sinister1811
1.8 / 5 (10) Oct 15, 2013
On another note, the same person is using his collection of sockpuppets to give me 1/5s:
| open | toot | Colombe | Dalriada | Father Brrenk | VendicarH |

Current users online: open ... And on his profile, it says: "Taking out the trash". This coward won't even comment (scared he'll get 1/5s), and won't even reveal his real profile (if he has one). What a moron.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (8) Oct 15, 2013
That's all Otto...never mind him. He's got a slew of other sockpuppets, too.

I think he's trying to best China in terms of internet censorship by creating his own 50-cent-army.
LarryD
5 / 5 (2) Oct 15, 2013
I don't know about where you chaps live buit those @#$%&* mosquitos are still filling up with blood where I live. I can understand why some scientist and medical people have suggested that the environment would not suffer if they were completely eradicated. While I am not sure if that would be 'ethical' or even necessary I sometimes wish that 'nature' had selected the mosquito for extinction.
I was going to say that I'm glad that evolution didn't select them to get 'big' but then anyone living in the Florida this year might say they already have them, Psorophora ciliata, or Gallinipper mosquitoes, 1/2 " long. Centainly makes the Asian Tiger (Aedes) mosquito look like an infant.
Maybe they'll be even bigger come the next 46 million years!
katesisco
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 16, 2013
Actually we may not have to wait that long. I theorize that Sol engages in a totally different energy expenditure during a delayed magnetic reversal. This greater energy not only heats Earths core producing in the past 'gas blowouts', but may drive evolution. There is a 'concentrated' effect that tightens up life's cellular level. You may rightly surmise that the effect would be a superior production. We could possibly get smarter but so would the predator parasites in as much as we have removed the alternate choices, the animal life. By their elimination, and by our overpopulation we have subsituted ourselves as the prime choice for predation. scary
LarryD
1 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2013
Although in India they are expecting a lot disruption to various systems I don't think western scientists feel the same. As the 'mag flip' happens every 11 years (and Earth's 'flip' isn't expected yet) apart from the effects on the Sun's current sheet, which might in turn affect the amount of cosmic ray, perhaps we should worry too much what it might do to evolution.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2013
That's all Otto...never mind him. He's got a slew of other sockpuppets, too.

I think he's trying to best China in terms of internet censorship by creating his own 50-cent-army.

And for anyone who is interested: the above post was designed as a honeypot to lure some of Ottos sockpuppets into voting. So if you want to find out what names the yellow-belly is hiding under: With the exception of Sinister1811 (obviously) the others are all his.

He's got a couple more, though.

What a loser.
LarryD
not rated yet Oct 17, 2013
My earlier comment should read '...perhaps we shouldn't worry...' Whoops, Sorry...

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