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.
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.
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.
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.
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.