Dinosaur Age Mosquito Fossil Found. PHOTO/ Daily
BEIRUT – Researchers discovered the fossil of the oldest known male mosquito buried in a piece of amber dating from 130 million years ago near the city of Hammana in Lebanon.
To their surprise, male mosquitoes had an elongated piercing-shaped sucking mouth that only female mosquitoes now have.
“Obviously they were hematophagous, meaning they feed on blood, so this discovery is a major discovery in the history of mosquito evolution,” said paleontologist Dany Azar of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology at the Chian Academy of Sciences and Lebanese University, in the journal Current Biology.
The two fossil mosquitoes, both representing the same extinct species, were similar in size and appearance to modern mosquitoes, although the mouthparts used to draw blood were shorter than those of today’s female mosquitoes.
The researchers said they suspect mosquitoes evolved from insects that do not feed on blood. They hypothesized that mouthparts adapted to obtain blood meals were originally used to penetrate plants to gain access to nutritious fluids.
The researchers say although this is the oldest fossil, mosquitoes may have existed millions of years earlier. They note that molecular evidence suggests mosquitoes emerged during the Jurassic Period, which lasted about 200 million to 145 million years ago.
There are more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes worldwide, found everywhere except Antarctica. There are also diseases that transmit malaria, yellow fever, Zika fever, dengue fever and other diseases.