Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. Earth Science News .




EARLY EARTH
16 million-year-old amber specimen reveals unknown animal behaviors
by Staff Writers
Manchester UK (SPX) Oct 18, 2012


The image shows a mayfly dating from 16 million-years-ago encased in amber. A springtail be seen resting on its back. Credit: Dr Dave Penney, The University of Manchester.

Stunning images, including video footage, from a CT scan of amber have revealed the first evidence of any creature using an adult mayfly for transport. Researchers at the University of Manchester say this 16 million-year-old hitchhiker most likely demonstrates activity that is taking place today but has never previously been recorded.

Entombed in amber the tiny springtail can be seen resting in a v-shaped depression at the base of one of the mayfly's wings. It appears to have secured itself for transport using its prehensile antennae.

Dr David Penney and colleagues from the Faculty of Life Sciences and the School of Materials used a high resolution CT scanner to take over 3,000 X-rays from different angles.

The scientists then created slices, showing the fossil in cross sections. From these slices 3D digital images of the springtail were made so an accurate analysis of its behaviour could be conducted.

Dr Penney says: "The images are really impressive. This pioneering approach to studying fossils has allowed us an insight into the behaviour of one of the world's most prevalent organisms."

Springtails are minute creatures (usually only 1-2mm long) related to true insects. They're found around the world in great numbers, including here in the UK. Gardeners will recognise them as the tiny insects that hop around when soil is disturbed. They readily colonize newly-formed islands but very little is known about how they manage to migrate.

One of the reasons is that they are incredibly nervous creatures and have an astonishing ability to leap away from danger using a springing organ (the furca) on the underside of the abdomen, which makes observing them in life very difficult.

Interestingly, when the 3D image of the springtail in amber is magnified it's possible to see that the springtail is very slightly detached (by just 50 micrometres) from the mayfly. This suggests it was attempting to spring away as the amber set around it.

Only one previous case of phoresy (the transportation of one organism by another) has been recorded for springtails. This was found in a piece of Baltic amber where five springtails were hooked in a row on the leg of a harvestman arachnid.

It was this discovery in 2010 which prompted Dr Penney to take a closer look at his own specimen. "I had initially thought the creature on the mayfly may have been a tiny nymphal pseudoscorpion, as they are known to use other creatures for transport, and this behaviour is not uncommon to see in amber.

I was interested in the fact that this was the first time a creature had been found on an adult mayfly but I didn't truly appreciate the significance of my find until I used the CT scanner and was able to identify the animal as a springtail."

Phoresy in adult mayflies has never before been recorded. They live for just a short period of time from one hour to a few days depending on the species. The primary function of the adult stage is reproduction and they are unable to feed. This makes it very difficult to study mayflies in their natural habitat and record instances of phoresy.

The amber specimen encasing the mayfly and the springtail provides an accurate snapshot of behaviour that scientists wouldn't otherwise be able to record, highlighting one important application of the fossil record for understanding the present.

The near perfect condition of the mayfly demonstrates that it died instantaneously and wasn't moved far from where it rested when the resin ran over it.

Equally the position of the springtail resting on the back of the mayfly and the fact that it is in contact with the creature means the pair were unlikely to have been brought together by the resin as it moved down the tree.

The details of Dr Penney's research has been published in the journal, PLOS ONE. More analysis of amber using CT scans is continuing.

Dr Penney says: "The CT scan allows us to build up a 3D image that catches minute details of the animal. We can rotate the image to see parts of the creature that are obscured when looking from the outside in.

In effect, we are able to digitally dissect the fossil without causing any damage to it whatsoever. This technology has revolutionised how we study fossils and the findings are incredibly exciting."

.


Related Links
University of Manchester
Explore The Early Earth at TerraDaily.com






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EARLY EARTH
Scientists identify likely origins of vertebrate air breathing
Fairbanks AK (SPX) Oct 17, 2012
University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists have identified what they think is the ancestral trait that allowed for the evolution of air breathing in vertebrates. They will present their research at the 42nd annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience Oct. 17 in New Orleans. "To breathe air with a lung you need more than a lung, you need neural circuitry that is sensitive to carbon dioxid ... read more


EARLY EARTH
Tiny travelers from deep space could assist in healing Fukushima's nuclear scar

Climate change helps drive N. America disasters: re-insurer

French broadcaster apologises to Japan over Fukushima gag

Planning can cut costs of disasters: World Bank

EARLY EARTH
Mapping The Universe In 3-D

Physicists crack another piece of the glass puzzle

Worldwide smartphone users top 1 bn: report

New paper reveals fundamental chemistry of plasma/liquid interactions

EARLY EARTH
LSU research team shows negative impact of nutrients on coastal ecosystems

Why Are Coastal Salt Marshes Falling Apart?

Mathematics and the Ocean: Movement, Mixing and Climate Modeling

Coral reefs and food security: Study shows nations at risk

EARLY EARTH
Ice sheet retreat controlled by the landscape

1 by land and 1 by sea

NASA's Operation IceBridge Resumes Flights Over Antarctica

Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches New Maximum Extent

EARLY EARTH
U of M scientist contributes to mapping of barley genome

Green leaf volatiles increase plant fitness via biocontrol

Viral alliances overcoming plant defenses

Pollenizer Research Should Help Seedless Watermelon Farmers

EARLY EARTH
Could a Hurricane Ever Strike Southern California?

Study advances understanding of volcanic eruptions

Pakistan floods kill 455, affect five million

Tropical cyclones are occurring more frequently than before

EARLY EARTH
Life expectancy shoots up to 60 in SAfrica: study

Africa faces spike in older people living with HIV

Liberia,ICoast to hold joint manoeuvres on border by end of year

Liberian president in Ivory Coast to discuss border security

EARLY EARTH
Novel chewing gum formulation helps prevent motion sickness

Discovery of two opposite ways humans voluntarily forget unwanted memories

The evolutionary origins of our pretty smile

Outside View: Give us a little credit




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement