The new record holders look identical to those alive today.
Claimed 230 million years old, 100 million years older than the previous record holders, fossils of arthropods in amber (fossilized tree sap) were reported in PNAS (Schmidt et al., “Arthropods in amber from the Triassic Period,” PNAS August 27, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1208464109). The little bugs, including two mites and a fly, haven’t done much evolving in all that time. Science Daily and PhysOrg both quoted co-author David Grimaldi, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology “and a world authority on amber and fossil arthropods,” expressing his surprise at this example of extreme evolutionary stasis:
Two of the specimens are new species of mites, named Triasacarus fedelei and Ampezzoa triassica. They are the oldest fossils in an extremely specialized group called Eriophyoidea that has about 3,500 living species, all of which feed on plants and sometimes form abnormal growth called “galls.” The ancient gall mites are surprisingly similar to ones seen today.
“You would think that by going back to the Triassic you’d find a transitional form of gall mite, but no,” Grimaldi said. “Even 230 million years ago, all of the distinguishing features of this family were there—a long, segmented body; only two pairs of legs instead of the usual four found in mites; unique feather claws, and mouthparts.”
He didn’t specify who would think that. Presumably, he was referring to himself, or to other evolutionists. According to the BBC News, Dr. David Penney (U of Manchester) was just as surprised: “The results presented here skip the Jurassic entirely and go back a step further to the Triassic,” he said. “This was not expected.”
Another evolutionary conundrum is that most living gall mites feed on flowering plants, which (in evolutionary time) would not appear on the scene for another 90 million years. The article offered the following theory rescue device:
The ancient mites likely fed on the leaves of the tree that ultimately preserved them, a conifer in the extinct family Cheirolepidiaceae. Although about 97 percent of today’s gall mites feed on flowering plants, Triasacarus fedelei and Ampezzoa triassica existed prior to the appearance and rapid radiation of flowering plants. This finding reveals the evolutionary endurance of the mites…..
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