Researchers from the Colorado State University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology information in their paper in the journal Biology Letters the discovery of the earliest army ant on record. The specimen was protected in Baltic amber, going back to the Eocene Epoch (about 35 million years ago), and its about 3 millimetres long.
Army ants (Dorylinae) form some of the largest insect societies on the world. They live in colonies, take in big quantities of arthropods (invertebrates with joint legs) and are nomadic, walking around the world so they do not run out of food.
” This amber would have been excavated around or prior to the 1930s, so to now learn it consisted of a rare army ant is unexpected enough, much less one that demonstrates these ants roamed Europe,” Phillip Barden, study author, said in a statement. “With this fossil weve gained a rare paleontological porthole into the history of these special predators.”
Their lifestyle has actually taken them to the majority of continents of Earth, with over 200 army ant species now living in the Eastern Hemisphere and about 150 across North and South America. Thanks to a new fossil discovery, scientists have now discovered that the predators as soon as resided in Europe, in spite of not eating their method across the continent today.
Reconstruction of D. perseus from the researchers reveals similarities with some army ants alive today. Image credit: The scientists.
The eyeless specimen was named Dissimulodorylus perseus (D. perseus) by the researchers after the mythical Greek hero Perseus who notoriously defeated the Gorgon Medusa with restricted use of sight. This is simply the 2nd fossil army ant species ever described, and the very first one recuperated from the Eastern Hemisphere.
Checking out the army ants
” The museum houses numerous drawers filled with insect fossils, but I took place to come across a small specimen identified as a common type of ant while gathering information for another job,” Christine Sosiak, the research studys lead author, detailed in a media statement. “Once I put the ant under the microscopic lense, I instantly realized the label was unreliable.”
The researchers stated this ant fossil offers evidence of formerly unknown army any lineages that would have existed throughout Continental Europe before going extinct at some point in the past 50 million years. The fossil was really concealed among numerous others at Harvards University Museum of Comparative Zoology, hiding in plain sight.
The fossilized specimen was likely an army ant employee that was associated with bring its queens larvae and raiding for food with soldier ants when it lived, Sosiak said. It likely got lost from its fellow hunters and fell into sticky tree resin, which ultimately strengthened and enclosed the ant– permitting it to be studied by the team today.
When the ant fossil was formed, Europe had a much hotter and wetter climate than it has today, the scientists said. This might have supplied an ideal living environment for the army ants, which prefer a more humid and tropical environment. Europe has gone through numerous cooling cycles over the years, likely ending up being unwelcoming to the ants.
The scientists likewise discovered a bigger antibiotic gland on the fossil that is normally found in other army ants and assists them live underground. Sosiak said this was a fortunate find as ants were less likely to come into contact with the tree resin that forms fossils.
The scientists also discovered an enlarged antibiotic gland on the fossil that is normally discovered in other army ants and helps them live underground. This gland recommends that the European army ant was well suited for subterranean living. Sosiak stated this was a fortunate discover as ants were less most likely to come into contact with the tree resin that forms fossils.
When the ant fossil was formed, Europe had a much hotter and wetter climate than it has today, the researchers said. Europe has gone through numerous cooling cycles over the years, likely becoming inhospitable to the ants.