Spanish paleontologists have discovered the oldest fossil of a fly larva, the insect ancestor of today’s mosquitoes, flies and gallbladders. The specimen was found in northwestern Majorca, near the port of Estellencs. The fossil was estimated to be 247 million years old, which means it is older than the oldest dinosaur fossils. We learn about the discovery from the article on the pages Papers in Palaentology.
Fossils are unique in many ways. First of all, the fact that such a small trace of an ancient organism has been preserved in the rocks is extraordinary. Observations of larvae were mainly conducted under a light microscope. This fine preservation of the fossils was favored by the fine-grained structure of the sedimentary rock – so we can see the outline of the caterpillar perfectly in the quartz grains.
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In the pictures of the fly we can see what the animal looks like. It looks like insect larvae today. Also preserved are the features of the mouth parts, the head, part of the digestive system, and the holes used for gas exchange. On this basis, the researchers had no doubts – the fossil represents a fly larva. Of course, you don’t have to worry about the detected insect coming back to life, because the entire sample is strongly recrystallized, and the streaks are composed of oxide and sulfide minerals.
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Mallorcan larvae are the oldest of all dinosaurs. She lived through very difficult times on Earth
We can, in fact, finish admiring the fossil, but its age proves something more groundbreaking. Not just for our larvae, but for all kinds of flies. The fossil is 247 million years old and comes from the lower strata of the middle Triassic period. Experts in the class table will immediately note the broader historical context. This is just a few million years after the largest species extinction in Earth’s history. The Permian-Triassic crisis decimated nearly 90 percent. types of terrestrial animals.
Observing such an anatomically and evolutionarily mature caterpillar, we can confidently admit that Diptera has done an impressive job of maintaining its dominance in the world. Since 247 million of these forms have already lived, it is likely that flies either already existed before the Permian extinction (so they survived this crisis) or evolved at a rapid pace in a new, post-apocalyptic world. This is what we call the early Triassic period.
What was the world like 247 million years ago in Majorca? The layout of the continents was definitely different. The supercontinent Pangea was about to collapse, and what is now Europe was bathed in tropical sunshine. The dry, humid climate with alternating periods of drought and flood was not the most pleasant. Not to mention the high temperatures.
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The rocks from Majorca, where the fossil was found, represent a humid aquatic environment, possibly a floodplain where primitive club mosses, horsetails, and ferns grew. In their work, the researchers say that the fly larva probably feeds on organic matter from the soil.
The discovered caterpillar was also given a Latin genus and species name: Protoanesularva Juarezzi. The specimen is currently stored at the Catalan Institute of Paleontology, but will eventually return to Majorca, possibly as a museum exhibit.
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