Blood Preserved in Mosquito for 46 Million Years

Blood Preserved in Mosquito for 46 Million Years (Illustration) STEM Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Archeological Wonders World History

This image depicts a really ancient mosquito, still-engorged with blood, which she drew from her victim millions of years ago.

Many millions of years ago.

Actually ... forty-six million years ago, according to a study about the subject published by paleobiologist Dr. Dale E. Greenwalt (from the Smithsonian's National History Museum) and his colleagues, in 2013.

It is the oldest-known preserved mosquito which still has blood in the stomach. The picture is a microscope photo, by Dr. Greenwalt, of the shale-containing mosquito.

How is it possible that a mosquito’s food—the blood—is still in her stomach? (“Her stomach,” of course, since male mosquitoes do not drink blood from victims.)

Because, according to the study, the mosquito—in this instance, a Culiseta lemniscata—died not long after her feeding and was then encased in shale sediments after she drowned.

Shale, in this case, is a type of mud stone in which organic remains (like those of this mosquito) slowly decompose while the soft muddy material, surrounding it, compresses the insect’s body without distorting it. In a way, it is like a book holding a dried flower flat and then pressing on it.

Dr. Greenwalt, who examined the specimen-in-shale after a donor gave it to the Smithsonian, acknowledges the utter rarity of the find:

The insect had to take a blood meal, be blown to the water's surface and sink to the bottom of a pond or similar structure to be quickly embedded in fine sediment - all without disruption of its fragile distended blood-filled abdomen.

Dr. Ralph Harbach, of London’s Natural History Museum, was a co-author of the study. He notes:

The preservation of fossil female mosquito was an extremely improbable event.

The preserved mosquito was found in northwestern Montana, in a piece of shale from the Middle Eocene Kishenehn Formation.

There wasn’t enough genetic evidence in the fossil for scientists to determine the animal from whom the mosquito drew blood. But think about it ... what if it were dinosaur blood?

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 08, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016

Media Credits

Photo, by Dr. Greenwalt, described above, online via the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum.


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"Blood Preserved in Mosquito for 46 Million Years" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 08, 2015. Jul 23, 2018.
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