Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2007 3:01 pm
Location: Invading your mind!
Scientists have identified the oldest bee known, a tiny and almost lifelike 100-million-year-old specimen preserved in amber.
The discovery coincides with publication of the genetic blueprint of the honeybee, which reveals surprising links with mammals and humans.
The ancient insect, trapped in tree sap, is at least 35-45 million years older than any other known bee fossil.
It appears to be a "missing link" sharing features of both bees and wasps, which supports theories of bee evolution.
Experts believe pollen-dependent bees arose from carnivorous wasp ancestors.
With the arrival of pollinating bees, flowering plants blossomed on Earth. Prior to around 100 million years ago, the plant world was dominated by conifers which spread their seeds on the wind.
George Poinar, Professor of Zoology at Oregon State University in Corvallis, US, whose team made the discovery, reported in the journal Science, said: "This is the oldest known bee we've ever been able to identify, and it shares some of the features of wasps. But overall it's more bee than wasp, and gives us a pretty good idea of when these two types of insects were separating on their evolutionary paths."
The amber specimen, from a mine in the Hukawng Valley of northern Myanmar (formerly Burma), has been named Melittosphex burmensis. It has waspish features, such as narrow hind legs, but also branched body hair and other characteristics of bees.
The fossil bee is in remarkable condition, with individual hairs preserved on undamaged portions of thorax, legs, abdomen and head. Legs and wings are also clearly visible.
In terms of size it is tiny, measuring barely 3 millimetres across. This is consistent with evidence that some of the earliest flowers were also small.
The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand. - Frank Herbert
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. - Albert Einstein
Knowledge is a powerful weapon, but only when its user can wield it.
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2007 3:14 pm
Location: Game Island
Seen it before, good post.