08/10/2020 | Pressemitteilung

Ap­pe­ti­te-less, ra­re and 100 mil­li­on ye­ars old: Bio­lo­gist finds new mos­qui­to spe­cies in am­ber

They are rare, tiny, do not eat anything as adult animals, and they are a successful model of evolution: mosquitoes of the genus Nymphomyia exist already for about 100 million years and thus much longer than assumed. This is the finding of a biologist at the University of Kassel, who described a previously unknown, extinct species.

Image: Patrick Müller.

The individuals of the new species Nymphomyia allissae are about 1 to 2 mm large and have elongated, weakly veined wings. In comparison to still living species the wings have broader ends and are sabre-like curved. "All in all they look amazingly similar to their living species". "This genus of mosquito has changed little and is therefore a real success model of evolution - just how successful this genus of mosquito has been is shown by our proof that it existed already about 100 million years ago".


Wagner found the specimens enclosed in Burmese amber, which is estimated to be about this age. At that time, in the Cretaceous-Period, dinosaurs like the giant gigantosaurus ruled the earth. The oldest known fossils of the genus Nymphomyia, which were previously known, are estimated to be 35 to 40 million years old. In 1995 a fossil species was found in the 25 million years old Bitterfeld-Amber and thus in Germany.


Today's species are rare and occur in North and East Asia and in North America. While the larvae and pupae live in cold streams, the adult animals fly in swarms - probably this was already the case with Nymphomyia allissae, because Wagner and a befriended amber collector found eight individuals in a piece of amber about 3.6 centimeters long. The researcher suspects another common feature: adult animals of today's species no longer take up any food. They die relatively quickly after mating and oviposition. The fact that this was already the case with their ancestors "is very probable due to the shape of the head and undetectable mouth parts," says Wagner.


For the investigations, the scientist cut the stone into smaller pieces, each with one or two inclusions, and then examined the animals microscopically, describing and classifying them. The results have now been published in the journal Zootaxa.


Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Wagner held a professorship for limnology at the University of Kassel until his retirement in 2016.


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