Sunday 19 February 2012

Ancient and Modern

While looking for Globular Springtails on a recent frosty morning I found a tiny midge (approx 5mm) on the underside of a rock. It wasn't particularly photogenic and not something I would ordinarily have photographed. However, what did interest me was its striking resemblance to a midge in a piece of 50 million year old amber that I happen to own.


A midge, approximately 5mm in length (2012 model)

A Midge trapped in Baltic Amber approximately 50 million years ago

and from the other side...

Both midges are approximately the same size and both have the feathery antennae characteristic of midges.  The two midges also have very similar compound eyes, mouthparts, thorax and abdomen (although the abdomen on the 2012 midge is not visible in the above image).

I find it remarkable to be able to see a 50 million year old insect but it is also interesting to see that this insect has changed very little over this period of time. Presumably we have to conclude that the midge is, and alway has been, well designed to exploit its niche and has therefore experienced little evolutionary change.

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