Blood in a 46 million year old mosquito
Paleontologists have found in the abdomen of a fossilized mosquito in Montana the hemoglobin of a prey living in the Eocene (the 2nd geology time of five epochs in the Tertiary Period ). Blood in a 46 million year old mosquito; in the film Jurassic Park, scientists resuscitate dinosaurs from DNA preserved in blood ingested by mosquitoes preserved in amber. A far-fetched scenario because, to date, no insect gorged with dinosaur blood has ever been found (not to mention that DNA degrades in a few hundred years).
Paleontologists have just taken a step forward by identifying a female mosquito containing fossilized blood for 46 million years, or 20 million years after the disappearance of the dinosaurs. They have in fact discovered 36 specimens of mosquitoes preserved in the rocks of Montana, including a dozen belonging to no known species, they explain in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
But the most interesting individual is undoubtedly that of a female, recognizable by its smooth antennae and its dark and distended abdomen, as if it were gorged with blood. Analyzes by X-ray spectroscopy showed that the body of the insect had a high concentration of iron and carbon, much more than the shale in which it is imprisoned. With an ion probe, they noticed that the iron was associated with heme molecules, one of the components of hemoglobin. It is therefore blood taken from a prey.
The parasitized animal remains unknown, but mosquitoes look like insects that bite birds. The researchers say their technique could help identify other biological molecules in even older fossils, such as dinosaurs. Their discovery also strengthens the credit of other researchers who claimed to have found in 1997 and then in 2009 blood compounds in the bones of Tyrannosaurus rex and Brachylophosaurus canadensis, a “duck-headed” dinosaur.
Alas, reality will not surpass fiction. Firstly because it is currently impossible to reconstruct a dinosaur, even if we had its DNA (a dark story of destroyed nucleotides). Then because the fossilized mosquito found, even if it is the oldest discovered to date, was only trapped in the resin 46 million years before our era.
The prehistoric, female mosquito, the researchers announce, was therefore unable to bite dinosaurs, which had already disappeared 20 million years before its last meal.
Suddenly, the blood contained in the mosquito is undoubtedly that of a common prehistoric bird.
The fossil discovered in northern Montana, in the United States, is nonetheless a first-rate scientific discovery.
Jurassic Park, mistaken scenario?
Toxorhynchites, also called “elephant mosquitoes” are by far the largest mosquitoes in the world: they can reach 1.5 cm in length. But they do not sting: they feed only on nectar. Ironically, it’s an elephant mosquito that we see trapped in amber from the film Jurassic Park: the film’s scientists therefore extract dinosaur blood from the only mosquito in the world that does not feed on blood.
Jurassic Park: This small mistake spotted by a fan that totally changes the plot
A 46 million year old mosquito with blood inside. The scenario is worthy of the last opus of Jurassic Park. And yet, it is indeed a discovery made by American entomologists. What species does the blood belong to?
Is the Jurassic Park storyline playing out in real life? In the film, a team of researchers manages to bring dinosaurs back to life using blood extracted from a mosquito. And coincidentally, we just found a 46 million year old mosquito with blood inside. Such a discovery had already been made with an even older mosquito, 95 million years old, but the latter contained no blood. Unfortunately, our blood-bearing specimen did not live in the age of the dinosaurs. The possibility of seeing dinosaurs at the Zoo du Parc Floral is literally extinguished. We reassure you, all the same, the technique used in Jurassic Park would not be feasible in reality according to Smithsonian Mag, a blog specializing in science.
Despite this disappointment, the discovery of this mosquito is remarkable. Indeed, according to the biochemist of the Museum of Natural History in Washington, Dale Greenwalt, “it is the first fossil of a mosquito still engorged with blood ever unearthed.” The mosquito was found in oil shale in the state of Montana. An original medium which, as a researcher from the University of Oregon asserts, proves “that a blood-sucking mosquito can be preserved in a medium other than amber.” It is not yet known if the blood contained in the body of the insect can be analyzed and if we will ever know its origin. In the meantime, we let you imagine the craziest delusions.
Photo description: a mosquito in Baltic amber necklace is between 40 and 60 million years old. Please note the mosquito survived the hole, which was drilled to make the necklace. This mosquito preserved in amber; a specimen of this sort was the source of dinosaur DNA in Jurassic Park.