These flies have been trapped in the bone area for 41 million years

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Mating flies found in 41 million year old amber.

Mating flies found in 41 million year old amber.
Image: Jeffrey Stilwell

A pair of long-legged flies met a Romeo and Juliet end about 41 million years ago, when a drop of tree resin ruined their tender moment. On the bright side, their disturbed act of fornication has been preserved for eternity in this piece of pornographic amber.

Prehistoric spiders, ants, midges and a pair of copulating flies are among a unique treasure of amber fossils described in a paper published today in Scientific Reports.

Amber fossils are generally associated with the northern hemisphere, particularly in Myanmar, which has produced a bewildering assortment of fossils over the years. The new selection is unique in that it is one of the oldest amber fossils collected in the southern hemisphere, including sites in Australia and New Zealand. The new document was edited by Jeffrey Stilwell of the Monash School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment.

Various critters found trapped in amber from the southern hemisphere.

Various critters found trapped in amber from the southern hemisphere.
Image: J. D. Stillwell et al., 2020 / Scientific reports

The new collection spans a vast period of time, from the Upper Triassic period around 230 million years ago to the end of the Middle Eocene around 40 million years ago. Stilwell and his colleagues discovered thousands of pieces of amber, many of which contained various animals, plants, and microorganisms.

Amber fossils are valuable in that they offer a 3D perspective of immaculately preserved specimens. In rare cases, these fossils can even capture a particular behavior, such as ticks crawling through dinosaur feathers or a spider attack a wasp. In this case, the researchers were fortunate to find a pair of long-legged copulating files (Dolichopodidae), who lived in southern Gondwana at the end of the Middle Eocene in what is now Anglesea, Australia.

“This may be the first example of” frozen behavior “in Australia’s fossil record,” Stilwell said in a statement. Press release.

But as paleontologist Victoria McCoy of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Told the New York Times, these flies may not actually be in their final death position. “It is possible that one fly was trapped in the amber and that the other was a little excited and tried to mate,” said McCoy, who was not involved in the research.

Hmph. Okay, fair enough, but we so badly want these fornicating flies to be happy.

For these vigorous long-legged flies, their last act of copulation has been preserved for all, but it could have been worse – as evidenced by a 99-a piece of amber million years old containing a dad with legs long with his penis firmly erect. As I wrote in my blanket of this discovery in 2016, “This is perhaps the oldest – and the oldest – erection in the history of science. “

And in another awkward moment in time, a 100 million year-old piece of Chinese amber shows a young lady try to woo a female. This poor guy has an eternal case of blue balls. At least the long-legged flies did get the chance to do the horizontal hokey-pokey.

Amber fossils provide an unprecedented insight into the ecosystems that existed long ago in southern Pangea, southern Gondwana and Zealandia. Beginning between 200 million and 175 million years ago, the land masses now recognized as South America, Africa, Madagascar, India, Antarctica, and Australia began to detach from the supercontinent. of Pangea, forming the minor supercontinent of Gondwana.

Reconstitution by the artist of Monomorium, a previously unknown species of ant found frozen in Australian amber.

Reconstitution by the artist of Monomorium, an unknown species of ant found frozen in Australian amber.
Illustration: J.A. Peñas

In addition to these flies, the paper describes a new discovery species of fossil ants called Monomorium and a small wingless hexapod, both from southern Gondwana. A batch of baby spiders, biting midges, liverworts and pieces of moss are among the other found objects wrapped in fossilized tree resin. Scientists have also found a piece of amber that is about 230 million years old – the oldest ever from South Pangea.

In the future, researchers will continue to list the various animals found in amber, as many of them may represent new species and perhaps even new groups of animals.

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