Scientists Find Rare Mosquito Containing Blood From Eocene Period

Screen-Shot-2013-10-11-at-9.27.52-AM-300x221This is amazing. In Montana, scientists have discovered a mosquito that is still carrying blood from animals in the Eocene — that is some 46 million years ago. Of course, creationists would point out that scientists are again some 46 million years off since the Earth is only a few thousand years old.

The mosquito was found in oil shale and remains engorged with ancient blood. It is believed to be the first of its kind and was announced in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Four prior “blood-eating” fossil records have been uncovered and this is the first mosquito with traces of blood. It is very rare to find a mosquito due to the environment in which they operated despite the portrayal in the movie “Jurassic Park.”

There is no word on the blood that it is carrying. The Eocene represents the period at end of the Palaeocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. This includes a major extinction event called the Grande Coupure (the “Great Break” in continuity) or the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event. The animals included mammals such as artiodactyls, perissodactyls and primates, which tended to be small. It later included modern ungulates (hoofed animals) as well as carnivorous ungulates and early forms of bats, proboscidians (elephants), primates, rodents and marsupials.

54 thoughts on “Scientists Find Rare Mosquito Containing Blood From Eocene Period”

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  2. bOB K/Lottakatz:

    if you ever want to go fossil hunting, go to Maryland near the Calvert Cliffs, the dam things spill out all over the place, whale bones, crocidile bones, fish bones, etc and you can find all kinds of fossil teeth along the beach for miles.

    Huge shark teeth too, as big as your hand.

  3. lottakatz,

    You’re welcome.

    Yeah, I stumbled on Cristina Rad’s video by accident. “Let’s see what this ditzy girl has to say.” I had deceived myself.

    She’s actually super-intelligent, well-spoken, and funny. Serendipitous, that she talked about whale development. I didn’t know about the middle-ear business.
    We really do have a pretty complete documentation of whale development, in the fossil record. Shrinking legs, and everything.

    National Geographic gives great value, introducing us to stuff we’d never get around to studying.

    Finding a fossil is such a wonderful gift. Have fun with them.

  4. Bob K, the video was cool.and the NatGeo slide show was greatly entertaining. i have never heard/read of that site (Wadi Hitan) so it was a double and novel treat, something shiny and new with a very nice photo spread. I collected some small fossils (Crinoid stalks and mollusks) in a clay and shattered limestone bed that was close to my house and disrupted by construction. Also went mining for geodes a couple of times. It’s a strange feeling holding something in your hand that is millions (hundreds of millions) of years old, old beyond any … connectivity, in a manner of speaking, and imagining it’s world. Holding it’s remains. It’s like meeting an alien.

    I’ve got a couple of the more strange and unknown artifacts on the desk I’m typing from. Yeah, in any event thanks for the whale fossil pics, I’m going to play with my fossils now.

  5. I used to enjoy reading Stephen Jay Gould’s nonfiction books as well as his articles. I remember finding his theory of Punctuated Equilibrium extremely interesting.


    Punctuated Equilibrium

    The concept of punctuated equilibrium was, to some, a radical new idea when it was first proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge in 1972. Now it is widely recognized as a useful model for one kind of evolutionary change. The relative importance of punctuated and gradual patterns of evolution is a subject of debate and research.

    Punctuated Equilibrium:

    Charles Darwin understood that evolution was a slow and gradual process. By gradual, Darwin did not mean “perfectly smooth,” but rather, “stepwise,” with a species evolving and accumulating small variations over long periods of time until a new species was born. He did not assume that the pace of change was constant, however, and recognized that many species retained the same form for long periods.

    Still, if evolution is gradual, there should be a fossilized record of small, incremental changes on the way to a new species. But in many cases, scientists have been unable to find most of these intermediate forms. Darwin himself was shaken by their absence. His conclusion was that the fossil record was lacked these transitional stages, because it was so incomplete.

    That is certainly true in many cases, because the chances of each of those critical changing forms having been preserved as fossils are small. But in 1972, evolutionary scientists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge proposed another explanation, which they called “punctuated equilibrium.” That is, species are generally stable, changing little for millions of years. This leisurely pace is “punctuated” by a rapid burst of change that results in a new species and that leaves few fossils behind.

    According to this idea, the changes leading to a new species don’t usually occur in the mainstream population of an organism, where changes wouldn’t endure because of so much interbreeding among like creatures. Rather, speciation is more likely at the edge of a population, where a small group can easily become separated geographically from the main body and undergo changes that can create a survival advantage and thus produce a new, non-interbreeding species.

    This hypothesis predicts that the fossil record at any one site is unlikely to record the process of speciation. If a site records that the ancestral species lived there, the new species would probably be evolving somewhere else. The small size of the isolated population which is evolving into a new species reduces the odds that any of its members will be fossilized. The new species will only leave fossils at the same site as the old one if it becomes successful enough to move back into its ancestral range or different enough to exist alongside its relatives.

    Scientists have scrutinized the fossil records of many organisms looking for evidence of punctuated evolution. One group of coral-like sea organisms in particular, called bryozoan, shows this kind of pattern. The well-preserved fossil record of bryozoans shows that one species first appeared about 140 million years ago and remained unchanged for its first 40 million years. Then there was an explosion of diversification, followed by another period of stability for vast amounts of time.

    Although the patterns predicted by punctuated equilibrium have been observed in at least some cases, debate continues over how frequently this model of evolutionary change occurs — is it the norm, or only an exception? Punctuated equilibrium also generates interesting questions for further research. What, for example, are the processes that produce rapid evolution? Population genetic studies show us that small changes can accrue quickly in small populations. And evolutionary developmental biology is revealing new mechanisms that regulate the expression of small genetic changes in ways that can have a large effect on phenotype. Which evolutionary factors are primarily responsible for the periods of stasis — in which lineages persist without change — that can be observed in the fossil record? In seeking the answers to these questions, researchers will continue to advance our understanding of the evolutionary processes that produced the remarkable variety of life on Earth.

  6. Bron,

    Hubert wouldn’t post on a blog with any educated folks present, if he didn’t love punishment.

    He goads us into castigating him, with his gift for choosing the most perfect, mind-boggling, brain-dead comments.

    I guess it’s better than getting no attention, at all.

    Hubert actually believes that his sky-daddy reads this blog, and will award him brownie-points for displaying his ignorance. Testifying, ya know?

    Good luck with that, Hubert!

  7. Hubert,
    No one has said an insect will evolve into a turtle, rabbit or anything but an insect. What they do is evolve into new species, which I mentioned above. If a species is successful, it will survive. If not, it eventually disappears. Evolution does not look like a straight line. It looks like a tree with many branches.

    As humans, we are not descended from apes. However, both apes and humans are descended from a common ancestor millions of years ago. On top of that, some of nature’s experiments in human evolution has had a few dead ends too. When was the last time you ran into a Neanderthal? Cro Magnons out-competed them for survival and they are now extinct.

    As for carbon dating, that only goes back so far, and can only date carbon-based life forms that were alive once. An alternate method of dating really old objects is radioactive decay, or radionuclide dating. RD dating can be used for objects that were never alive, such as rocks. That method was discovered over a hundred years ago, so it’s not exactly new. RD dating can be used to date the oldest rocks on earth. The oldest known rock found so far has been dated at 4.28 billion years using radionuclide dating.

  8. davidbluefish,

    The actual reason for my posting the video, was that Cristina never once said, “My eyes are up here!”

    That’s gotta be a first.

  9. Hubert,

    First off, a good physicist could figure out how long your candle had been burning by examining the available evidence, like the amount of melted wax at the base of the candle, figuring it’s volume, observing the burn rate of the still burning candle and the volume of unburned wax. If the match was still present, heat readings might provide additional data, and so forth. Then, by running some mathematical computations (math, God’s true language), he could come up with a pretty decent range for how long your candle had been burning.

    The problem for you, Hubieboy, is that carbon dating is a testable method that can be cross checked with other verifiable data to determine its accuracy. Just because you blindly accepted the word of a stranger, doesn’t mean that scientists are given to same flawed thinking. And, we can test the accuracy of carbon dating thanks to Steno’s Principles, particularly the Law of Lateral Continuity. Note that these are laws of science, not theories like evolution or gravity. They’re based on verifiable, incontrovertible evidence and when we come up with a law in science, it’s like we’re saying, “we know what God was thinking”.

    That said, if you want to kling to your book of fairy tales, go right ahead. I just wish you and your ilk would start acting like you actually believe in the principles it contained.

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