Blood-filled mosquito fossil found -- still no 'Jurassic Park'

It's not old enough to have slurped dino blood, but a well-fed mosquito from 46 million years ago is the first such fossil to be discovered.

Mosquito fossil
At least it died full. Dale Greenwalt

When you hear the phrase "fossilized, blood-engorged mosquito," your mind may jump to images of dinosaurs roaming freely in "Jurassic Park."

It's a nice dream, but one that is once again dashed by actual science. Still, researchers have come across the incredibly cool discovery of a fossilized, blood-engorged mosquito. It just won't be leading to the creation of any velociraptors.

The mosquito is the first this old to be found with blood in its belly. It dates to the Eocene era, about 46 million years ago -- well after the extinction of the dinos we know and love.

The story behind the discovery is unusual, since the mosquito was first excavated over 30 years ago, and then left in a basement in Montana to collect dust. Retired biochemist Dale Greenwalt, a volunteer and research collaborator working with the paleobiology department at the Smithsonian, was cataloging a collection of donated fossils when he came across the mosquito.

Smithsonian scientists put the fossil through several tests to determine the presence of iron and heme, providing evidence that the mosquito was indeed full of ancient blood. Unfortunately, no DNA could survive that long and through the fossilization process, so we will probably never know what the mosquito's last meal consisted of.

The Smithsonian notes that "this new discovery represents the oldest direct evidence of blood-sucking behavior. It also shows for the first time that biological molecules such as heme can survive as part of the fossil record."

A paper on the topic has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

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