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 14, 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 14, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sanofi Takes Aim at Dengue Fever

Sanofi Takes Aim at Dengue Fever

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 11, 2014) France's Sanofi hopes to launch the first vaccine against dengue fever, the world's fastest-growing tropical disease, in 2015. A large clinical study showed it provided moderate protection, but as Joanna Partridge questions remain over how well it can help fight dengue and whether the drug will be a blockbuster for Sanofi. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soft Robot Fish Lead New Wave of Robotics

Soft Robot Fish Lead New Wave of Robotics

AP (July 11, 2014) MIT researchers have created what they say is the first self-contained soft robot. In this case, a fluid robot fish that is powered by water, can react to its environment and is soft to touch. (July 11) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lions, Tigers, Bears Destroy Jeans For Charity

Lions, Tigers, Bears Destroy Jeans For Charity

Newsy (July 10, 2014) One zoo in Japan is giving denim to some of its animals to play with. The distressed fabric is made into jeans that will be auctioned for charity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Free Medical Marijuana For Some Berkeley, Calif. Residents

Free Medical Marijuana For Some Berkeley, Calif. Residents

Newsy (July 10, 2014) Berkeley city council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring dispensaries to give away a portion of the marijuana they sell each year. 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