Finding ancient bugs trapped in amber is hardly new, but this Cretaceous-era assassin fly may be the most pristine three-dimensional preservation of an insect we've ever seen.
The amber fossil was discovered by Torsten Dikow from the National Museum of Natural History. It's a newly recorded species of assassin fly called Burmapogon brucksch, an insect that terrorized the Cretaceous some 100 million years ago. They're called assassin flies because of their fierce predation strategy; they ambush and catch their prey in flight, puncture their armour, and inject them with digestive fluids before extracting the nutrients.
Smithsonian Science explains more about the unique discovery:
"The transparency of these amber fossils gives researchers a new window into the ecology of the Cretaceous period, and sheds light on the evolutionary history of a family of flies that has withstood the test of time for millions of years," said Dikow, a research scientist in the Department of Entomology. "The fossils of these ancient flies are so well preserved that you can almost imagine them flying around in our world today."
The translucent amber fossils preserved the imprint of the new species—rather than the tissues themselves—and provided researchers with their first three-dimensional look at a fossilized assassin fly. Dikow identified the new species after studying the morphology of a male and female specimen using a microscope. Distinct features that are not found in modern species of assassin flies include long, flattened antennae, a unique v-shaped eye structure and spiny hind legs.
Much more at Smithsonian.
Images: David Grimaldi via Smithsonian