More Bugs!


Valesguya disjuncta aka scavenger fly

This has been an exciting week in Paleontology! A few days ago, the discovery of a feathered dinosaur tail fragment was all over the internet and yesterday our stackshot equipment (which was being fixed) returned to the lab. Ok- maybe a feathered dinosaur tail beats some camera equipment, but regardless, I was pretty excited to get back to photographing our collection. We have a small collection of insects encased in Baltic amber and we decided this was a great time to test out our recently improved stackshot.



DIP-V-15103 or “Eva” is believed to be a juvenile coelurosaur tail fragment, dating to about 99 million years ago and was found by Lida Ying of the China University of Geosciences.

Can we just stop for a moment and take a look at this? This is the first time we have such great preservation of dinosaur soft tissue and feathers! If you have not stopped to take a look at the articles out there, you can find it here, or here, or here, or there.  There are also a couple of ants in there, and I am always blown away by how similar our modern bugs compare to their ancestors. You know what they say though: “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”

Ok, now back to what is happening here at the VMNH:

I am usually taking photographs of Solite insect fossils here in the Paleo lab, which are relatively flat, so it has been exciting to photograph three dimensional insects for a change. These beauties below are preserved in Baltic amber. Baltic amber specimens date back to the Eocene epoch, around 44 million years ago, and about 98% of the specimens are insects. Baltic amber is also referred to as succinite, as it contains about 8% of succinic acid.


dorsal view of the Coleoptera aka beetle


ventral view of the Coleoptera aka beetle

Look at that beautiful beetle! There have been about 65  different kinds of beetles found in Baltic amber, so I can only be vague in regards to what kind this is without further research. Prior to joining the Paleo department, I had never really thought much about beetles, other than when I would see a live one crawling around; but since I have been going through the collections, I realize this is my favorite type of insect! I could look at beetles all day (and sometimes I do). They have great pattern and color variation.



Ceratopogonidae aka biting midge

This bloodsucker above goes by many different names: midge, midgie, sandfly, punky, and more recently is known as a no-see-um. These tiny little flies pack one nasty bite! This stacked series of photographs was taken by Christina, and the detail is amazing. We haven’t quite worked out how to add a scale bar into the mix, but this little guy or gal is only about a millimeter in body length.



Matsucoccus pinnatus aka scale bug



Pseudococcidae aka mealybug (male)

These two above are members the superfamily Coccoidea; the mealybug and scale group. If you are a plant lover, you may recognize this group as destructors of plants; such as my dear late orchid (may it rest in bug-free-peace). These insects affect many different plants, shrubs and trees. Like aphids, scale bugs and mealybugs have a proboscis, that they insert into the phloem or inner cells of a plant. Usually by the time you notice something is wrong with the plant, it is too late to save it. I did not realize that males of this group eventually grow wings- but it is the females you really have to worry about.

Well, those were the best looking specimens of the bunch. I hope you enjoyed looking at them as much as I do. It is time to get back to the Solite fossil photography- maybe I will start with the beetles.




This entry was posted in From the Collections Room, Paleontological techniques, Science and Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s