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U of I researchers and ancient amber

Let’s just hope this doesn’t lead to a campustown full of bioengineered dinosaurs….

The U of I News Bureau reports the following:

Scientists are searching through a massive collection of 20-million-year-old amber found in the Dominican Republic more than 50 years ago, and the effort is yielding fresh insights into ancient tropical insects and the world they inhabited.

When the collection is fully curated, a task that will take many years, it will be the largest unbiased Dominican amber collection in the world, the researchers report.

Perhaps the most striking discovery thus far is that of a pygmy locust, a tiny grasshopper the size of a rose thorn that lived 18- to 20-million years ago and fed on moss, algae and fungi. The specimen is remarkable because it represents an intermediate stage of evolution in the life of its subfamily of locusts (known as the Cladonotinae). The most ancient representatives of this group had wings, while modern counterparts do not. The newly discovered locust has what appear to be vestigial wings — remnant structures that had already lost their primary function. 

Read the rest of the article here. The article is supported by a video of the amber research that is narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

This should not be confused with a previous video of amber research that was once hosted by Sir Richard Attenborough.

Obviously, I’m just kidding. This is incredible work, and the results are extraordinary. But still. Let’s be careful out there. Jeff Goldblum was pretty clear on the risks.

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