Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient species of mayfly had short, tragic life

Date:
June 26, 2011
Source:
Oregon State University
Summary:
A tiny mayfly that died 100 million years ago, but was preserved for perpetuity in amber, is helping to shed light on ancient ecosystems.

This ancient mayfly, trapped 100 million years ago in amber, is a new species named Vetuformosa buckleyi.
Credit: Photo by George Poinar, Jr., courtesy of Oregon State University

About 100 million years ago, a tiny mayfly had a problem.

Like most adult mayflies, she only had that one day to live anyway, so there was no time to waste. She took her mating flight, got fertilized, and was about to lay her eggs when something went horribly wrong. She got stuck in some oozing tree sap and died, preserved for all time in the magic of amber. There would be ho hatchlings.

It was a pretty rude ending to what was already going to be a short adulthood. But her personal tragedy proved fortunate for scientists. The tiny specimen -- just described by an Oregon State University researcher as a new subfamily, genus and species of mayfly -- has helped to shed further light on the ecology of the distant past. And at least she didn't get eaten by a fish.

"Understanding the ecology and history of mayflies is important, in part because they are one of the most important fish foods in the world," said George Poinar, Jr., a professor of entomology at OSU and one of the world's leading experts in the use of amber to study ancient life forms.

"This is the first time we ever documented such long antennae and an ovipositor in this order of insects," Poinar said. "This species is now extinct. It probably had to lay its eggs on a certain type of substrate or habitat that disappeared, and the species disappeared with it. It's not good to be too specialized."

An ovipositor, Poinar said, is an egg-laying mechanism many insects use to place their eggs in a specific location, like inside plant tissue. No mayflies have ovipositors today.

Around the world, this group of insects is hugely important in stream biology. They furnish food for most stream predators, including fish.

They are also followed closely by fishermen, who create lures to resemble the latest mayfly hatch in streams and lakes. Many regions have charts to outline the expected hatch dates of particular mayfly species, which often fill the streams with flying insects and send fish into a feeding frenzy used to the advantage of astute anglers.

The life of a mayfly is odd. It lives in nymph form for about a year in freshwater, then emerges for only a single day as an adult to mate, lay eggs and then die.

"After their mating flight mayflies are usually dead by the end of the day," Poinar said. "There's only one thing they really care about on that one eventful day, and it's not eating. They don't even have functional mouth parts."

Clues learned from insect specimens such as this, researchers say, can provide invaluable insights into ancient ecosystems, what life forms existed, and how they may have interacted. Specimens can be preserved in near-perfect form when captured in tree sap that later becomes fossilized into amber, a semi-precious stone.

This particular fossil came from the Hukawng Valley of Burma, now known as Myanmar. It was formed between 97 and 110 million years ago. The findings of this study were published in Historical Biology, a professional journal.

"She was a very young female," Poinar said. "I named the genus Vetuformosa, which in Latin means old and beautifully formed."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. George Poinar. Vetuformosa buckleyi n. gen., n. sp. (Ephemeroptera: Baetidae; Vetuformosinae n. subfam.), a new subfamily of mayflies in Early Cretaceous Burmese amber. Historical Biology, 2011; DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2011.559084

Cite This Page:

Oregon State University. "Ancient species of mayfly had short, tragic life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110624130034.htm>.
Oregon State University. (2011, June 26). Ancient species of mayfly had short, tragic life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110624130034.htm
Oregon State University. "Ancient species of mayfly had short, tragic life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110624130034.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins