Notes on Mosquitos Found in Amber

by Terrence M. Allen, May 3, 2010
Revised November 30, 2010 for clarification, and updates


In reference to "the most asked for inclusion in amber" (A Mosquito): It is nearly impossible to find or acquire a piece of amber with a specimen of a mosquito. Michael Crichton, the author of the best-selling novel, "Jurassic Park", sparked the imaginations of many when he used a mosquito entombed in amber in his story to bring the extinct monster dinosaurs back to lifein today's scientific age of humankind. By extractiing the blood from a prehistoric mosquito which had been found preserved in amber, and which had before then fed upon and slurped up the blood from a dinosaur millions of years ago, he fancied a specious way to encode the "paleo-DNA" from the dinosaur blood from the mosquito's gut (filling in the missing gaps of the molecular strands of blood with blood from extant amphibians) and reproduce or clone real life size living prehistoric dinosaurs. Jurassic Park itself was a fabricated tropical island turned into an attraction or amusement park ("spared no expenses") where the guests could visit and observe living dinosaurs in an actual real life "paleotropical prehistoric animal park" setting.

Factually speaking, only a few dozen mosquitoes have ever been found in the world's supply of amber and copal pieces. These uncommon and scarce specimens reside in museums, univerisities, and a limited few private collections. They are not only of scientific value, but when available to the public, they are usually prioed from the mid to high hundreds to a couple of thousand dollars each because of their rarity.

The majority of insects and spiders that were trapped in the sticky tree resin which eventually fossilized into amber over millions of years generally were associated with the trees which oozed copious amounts of sap which later preserved their bodies in the amber. These insects most usually fed on plants and trees, gathered pollen or nectar from their related blossoms or flowers, or maybe gathered the sweet sugary tree sap for nourishment or as a substance to aid in making their nests. Many others were wood-boring pests or burrowed into the trunks, limbs, twigs, buds, or leaves (leaf miners and gall makers), of trees and plants, or were fungus feeders that lived under the bark or at or near the base of trees or on the floor of the forest of the trees which exuded these bleeding, sealing, self-healing, or repellant sappy-fluids.

Other predatory arthropods (insects,spiders and related arachnids) and even small lizards and tree frogs lived in the trees waiting for their next meals, while other insects were parasites of the sap-seekers. Other victims haphazardly lighted on globs of sticky resin flowing down the trunks and branches of the trees, or simply were blown by winds into the viscous sirup, sometimes even while mating and unable to fully control their copulating flight. Plant parts, incluidng pollen, flower petals and stamens, full flowers, bits of leaves, twigs, and other plant debris, including bark and plant hairs, were trapped in time in the same manner.

Mosquitoes generally wuold fall into the last two scenarios previously described. They would have inadvertently lighted to rest on the semiliquid tree sap and become stuck and unable to fly away, or they would have become victims of unpredictable winds which would blow them off course into the resin-traps. Male mosquitoes feed on the nectar of flowers (as females sometimes do too); only female mosquitoes are vampires and require a blood meal to obtain the protein in which to nourish their eggs. Consequently, mosquitoes would not normally associate themselves with sap-producting trees. Thus, the number of associated deaths due to being trapped in the liquid resin and preserved in amber is very small. It is even more rare to find a clear piece of amber with a whole or entire or exceptionally well preserved mosquito specimen.

Terrance M Allen
Retired Entomologist, California State Dept. Food & Agriculture
Certified Technician in Mosquito Control, Los Angeles County, State of California, Department of Health
Arachnologist, Practicing Paleontologist, and Factotum Naturalist
May 3, 2010. Revised November 30, 2010.


Courtesy of Aragon Enterprises, Inc. Partial or Total Reproduction Without Authorization Prohibited.


 

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