Fossil of 300 million year old flying insect discovered

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Scientists have discovered the fossil of a flying insect that got stuck in mud more than 300 million years ago. 

One scientists said of this fossil, the oldest ever found of a flying insect: “This is a very valuable type of preservation. You can actually see some of the movements of the appendages. … That gives you some information that we don’t normally get from body fossils.” [Crtedit: Richard Knecht]

Some 312 million years ago, a mayfly landed on a muddy patch, sat for a while and then flew away. 

However, the mud retained a detailed impression of the mayfly’s body — including details of its body segments and marks made by its claws — and was later hardened into rock, reports Discovery News. 

The fossil is now the oldest known full body impression of a flying insect, displacing the previous record-holder from 280-285 million years ago. 

It was discovered in 2008 in woods behind a mall in Massachusetts by Tufts University undergraduate Richard Knecht. 

“I grabbed a loose piece on the outer edge of it and it was already naturally split as rocks tend to do as they weather,” said Knecht, who now works at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. 

“I opened it like a book and there were both halves (cast and mold) of the specimen, ” he added. 

Evidence suggests the fossil represents the progenitor of modern mayflies, and pushes back the date for the emergence of this group of insects. 

The oldest evidence of any kind for insects comes from insect body parts dating to the Devonian period, starting 418 million years ago. 

The discovery was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

Source: New Kerala [April 05, 2011]

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