Insects Frozen In Time

A discovery in India of a cache of 50 million-year-old amber has allowed scientists to discover hundreds of new species of insects.  The insects are stunningly well preserved, so much so that they look like they could escape the amber, shake off the remnants, and hop, stalk, or fly away.

An example of an insect encased in amber from an earlier find in Spain

The photos of the trapped insects are very evocative, because the insects look so much like the insects of the modern world.  They feature antennae, and feelers, and segmented bodies, and lacy wings.  It appears that, in the last 50 million years, there have been no large, developmental leaps for insects — at least, not in connection with body design and external appearance.  Instead, the insects have been biding their time for those millions of years, letting the long roll of years and the forces of natural selection hone and incrementally improve what had already proven to be a very successful evolutionary design.

One interesting aspect of the recent find is that the soft Indian amber in which the insects are encased can be dissolved, allowing scientists to handle the insects themselves.  Imagine, holding an insect that lived 50 million years ago!

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