In the eye of the beholder

Fly with eyesChristina’s first posts at “Updates” – ACD

Fossil preservation is a tricky mistress. And a particularly deceptive one when it comes to invertebrate fossils. As the paleontology technician at VMNH, I am responsible for digitizing the fossils insects in our collection (made possible by NSF through iDigBio). My primary digitizing focus for the past year has been to photograph the insects from Solite Quarry, of which I have photographed hundreds and counting (check them out at During my time staring at my computer screen, going cross-eyed focusing the images for capture, and contemplating the ID of these insects, I sometimes wonder if my mind is playing tricks on me.  One such day came in June when I thought I saw an eye of a fly preserved.

Fly with eyes       Fly with eye close up (1)

The idea of eye preservation at Solite was a bit of a shock to me considering all the rest of the insects I had photographed to that moment either didn’t have their heads preserved at all or there was an empty space where the eyes would have been.  Solite Quarry insects have a history of having surprisingly good preservation, so why should the presence of eyes be a shock? Simply put….because we just don’t see them often! And, to date, eyes have not been found preserved in all the major groups in this collection.

However, one picture of one insect with possible eyes was not enough to convince my boss (Butch) that I wasn’t just imagining things.  Fortunately, August was a great month for finding more specimens with their eyes preserved.

In addition to the fly, I also have a couple beetles with eyes. The best of the two is below. Note: This beetle also has a counterpart that has the majority of the body preserved. This half had the eyes (both!).

Beetle with eyes         Beetle with eyes close up (1)


But the gem of them all is the following mystery insect:

insect with eyes         Mystery insect with eyes close up (1)This insect has the clearest eye facets of any I have photographed thus far. As of today, I have seven (out of almost 500) specimens with clear or possible eye preservation.



This entry was posted in Invertebrate Paleontology, Newark Supergroup, Solite Quarry. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to In the eye of the beholder

  1. Looks like the eyes have it!

  2. “The eyes have it” was a potential title for this post. 🙂

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