Rooting for Australian arthropods in amber

I think the title is a double entendre in Australian, but it’s not a language I am fluent in. Anyway, a paper in Nature describes an assortment of organisms found in amber from Australia and New Zealand, ranging in age from 230 million years to 40 million years. It’s lovely stuff.

Significant bioinclusions of plants and animals in Southern Gondwana late middle Eocene amber of Anglesea, Victoria. (A to B) Liverworts of the genus Radula (Marchantiophyta: Radulaceae). (C) Two stems with perfectly preserved phyllids or leaf-like structures of mosses of the genus Racopilum (Bryophyta: Racopilaceae). (D) Juvenile individuals of spiders. (E to F) Springtail of the living genus Coecobrya (Entomobryomorpha: Entomobryidae) in two views. (G) A Symphypleona springtail. (H) Light photograph of large piece of yellow amber with two dipterans, Dolichopodidae at left and Ceratopogonidae at right, and at top of image a mite of the living genus Leptus (Arachnida: Acari: Trombidiformes: Erythraeidae). (I) Dipterans of the family Dolichopodidae (long-legged flies) in copula. (J) Worker ant of the living genus Monomorium or a “Monomorium-like” lineage (Hymenoptera: Formicoidea: Formicidae).

I don’t know about you, but I was most interested in D, the two juvenile spiders.

Wait, I do know about you — you’re most interested in I, the two flies caught in the act. So here’s a closeup.

Count yourself lucky. Now if you want to take a pornographic selfie, you just whip out your phone, capture the moment, and go on with your life. Forty million years ago, you had to say “Freeze! Look sexy!” and wait for a drop of sap to ooze over you, and then you had to hold the pose for tens of millions of years.


  1. gijoel says

    Root is slang for screw in Australia, i.e. your engine is rooted, I had a root last night, etc.

  2. nomadiq says

    @2 – don’t forget the good old, ‘which team are you rooting for?’ snicker blush elbow-nudge I still get a chuckle when my (American) wife says our new-born is rooting around for her nipple to feed. I’m the childish one apparently.

    Rooting arthropods locked in amber? Awesome stuff! Maybe I’m just mature enough to enjoy it for the science.

  3. ginckgo says

    This is such a monumental jump in this area of palaeontology in Australia, because until Stilwell collected all these amber, very few fossils in amber were known here. He even managed to find a major layer of amber in the Eocene coal of the Anglesea coal mine just as it shut down and about to get flooded (he got them to reopen that part and help him truck away a couple tons of raw sediment to sort through).
    I cannot wait for a lot of this to come into the collection I manage at Museums Victoria ….. once we’re all allowed back into the collection who knows when.

    PS: have you been keeping an eye on the insane diversity and amount of published fossils coming out of Myanmar (99 million year old ‘burmite’)?

  4. gijoel says

    @3 That reminds me of an old joke. Why are men like Koalas? Because they eat, roots and leaves.