A team of researchers has described the oldest mosquito fossils ever found, two male insects from the Early Cretaceous period that have piercing mouthparts, suggesting this is likely the case they sucked blood. Both mosquitoes, found in the Lebanese amber deposit (approximately the oldest in the world). 150 million years) are described in an article in the journal Current Biology this Monday.
The discovery is strange not only because of its age, but also because Currently the males are not hematophagousOnly females feed on blood.
“Lebanese amber is the oldest and a very important material because its formation coincides with the appearance and start of radiation of flowering plants, which allowed the existence of pollinators,” explains Dany Azar from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Lebanese University.
“Molecular dating suggested that the family Culicidae arose in the Jurassic, but before that the oldest records were from the middle Cretaceous. Here we have an example from the early Cretaceous period, about 30 million years earlier,” says André Nel from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
The arthropod family Culicidae includes more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes But the possibility that these mosquitoes sucked blood helps reduce the mosquitoes’ “ghost line gap,” according to the authors.
Female mosquitoes are known for their blood feeding, which has made them one of the main vectors for the spread of infectious diseases.
Hematophagy in insects is thought to have arisen from a change in parts Oral piercing and sucking Used to extract plant fluids. For example, blood-sucking fleas probably evolved from nectar-feeding insects. However, the evolution of blood feeding has been difficult to study, in part because of gaps in the insect fossil record.
In this study, the team describes two male mosquitoes with stinging mouthpartswith an exceptionally sharp triangular jaw and an elongated structure with small tooth-like teeth.
According to the authors, the preservation of mosquitoes in amber extends the definitive presence of the mosquito insect family to the Early Cretaceous and suggests that the evolution of hematophagy was more complicated than suspected because there were hematophagous males in the distant past. In future work, the team would like to learn more about the “utility” of hematophagy in Cretaceous male mosquitoes. They are also curious to find out “why this doesn’t exist anymore,” Nel concludes.