If you hate cockroaches, then you might find some satisfaction in a fascinating piece of ancient insect history that recently came to light.
Oregon State University entomologist George Poinar Jr. discovered four new species of ensign wasps in 25-million-year-old amber found in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. These cockroach-killing wasps are still around today, and the amber finds offer an intriguing glimpse into their past.
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Poinar is the author of a study on the amber-encased wasps published in the paleobiology journal Historical Biology this month.
Ensign wasps let their young handle the cockroach-killing duties. Female wasps lay eggs in
But it’s the tiniest fossils that have transformed paleontology over the past five years.
Some of the field’s most extraordinary discoveries have come from amber: A dinosaur tail, parts of primitive birds, insects, lizards and flowers have all been found entombed in globs of 100 million-year-old tree resin.
They offer a tantalizing, three-dimensional look at dinosaur times. The vivid creatures and plants look like they just died yesterday with soft tissue in place and details like skin, coloring, feathers, teeth, leaves and petals exquisitely preserved — details that are often lost in the crush of fossils formed in rock.