Ancestor Of Common Fly Found Perfectly Preserved In Amber From 17 Million Years Ago

fly fossil in amber
American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)

When a fly buzzes around us it’s definitely annoying and we wonder “why this insect does exist”. But despite our disappointment, flies have been around for million years and play a quite important role in our ecosystem.

Now an international research group coordinated by Professor Pierfilippo Cerretti, from the “Charles Darwin” Department of Biology and Biotechnology at Sapienza University in Rome, proved flies are on this planet much longer then us. They found an ancestor of the common fly perfectly preserved in a 17-million-years-old amber, from the Dominican Republic: the first fossil of an oestroid fly.

The insect belongs to the group of the tsetse and the common household fly (which includes over 22,000 living species). This demonstrates that flies adapted very well through the centuries and millennia, because the insect, that was living million years ago, is still hanging around our head.

But if they didn’t exist, many things wouldn’t happen in this world. “It’s hard to imagine a world without the nuisance of flies,” Cerretti explains. These insects are abundant in every terrestrial habitat and often play key roles as parasites, parasitoids, decomposers, pathogen vectors and pollinators. “Who would take their place as efficient decomposers of organic matter?” Cerretti added.

The researchers announced the findings in an article published on “Plos One” journal. The specimen was identified through digital dissection by CT scans, which provide morphological data for a cladistic analysis of the phylogenetic position of the fossil among extant oestroid lineages. In other worlds, the special analysis helped identify the exact species of the insect.

The fossil is now part of the James Zigras Collection conserved at the Museum of Natural History in New York, and this is how it looks like.

What do you think about flies? Do you still want to kill them all now? Everything around us has a reason, even if we don’t perceive it…until it disappear for good.


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