Parasite Wasp in Amber
Perfectly preserved in an amber "time capsule," a tiny chalcid wasp is among 30 new discoveries that represent the first amber fossils ever found in Africa. (See x-ray pictures of otherwise "invisible" bugs encased in opaque amber.)
The prehistoric insects and plant spores became trapped in gooey tree resin in what is now central Ethiopia some 95 million years ago, reports a team led by Alexander Schmidt of the University of Göttingen in Germany.
The organisms date back to an evolutionary period when the types of insects that are common today first started appearing, the team writes in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Related: "Ancient Praying Mantis Found in Amber.")
This tiny wasp, for example, is one of the earliest known parasitic species—known for laying their eggs in the grubs of other insects, such as moths and beetles, which then get eaten from the inside out when the young wasps hatch. (Related: "Bugs Cuddle Up to Dead Comrades for Protection.")
First African Amber Photos: Thunder Fly, Wasps, More
Frozen in "time capsules" of fossilized tree sap, bugs and spores from the dinosaur era have been dug up at a site in Ethiopia.