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Discovery of fossils deepens the mystery of the snake insect.



Discovery of fossils deepens the mystery of the snake insect.

A modern snake image above a fifty-two million-year-old whitefly snake fossil from Driftwood Canyon in British Columbia.Credit: Copyright Zootaxa Fossil Image.

The discovery of fossils often answers a longstanding question about what our modern world is like. Sometimes, however, they deepen the mystery, as the newest discoveries of four ancient insects in British Columbia and Washington state are proving.


The recently discovered fossil by paleontologist Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences comes from a group of insects known as snakeflies, which now have been shown to reside in the region at about 50 million. Years ago, the results of the research were published in ZootaxaRaises further questions about the evident evolutionary history of insects and why they lived where they do today.

Snakeflies are slender predatory insects native to the Northern Hemisphere and apparently not found in the tropics. Scientists traditionally believe they need winter to encourage maturity, limited to regions with very cold or very cold climates. However, the fossil sites of ancient species have inconsistent climate with this description.

“The average annual climate is moderate, such as today̵

7;s Vancouver or Seattle. But the most important thing is that there are few days or almost none of the mild winters, ”Archibald said. “We can see this in the presence of frost-tolerant plants such as these forest-dwelling dates, along with other northern plants such as pines.”

The fossil site of the ancient species spans 1,000 kilometers from the ancient uplands, from Driftwood Canyon in northwest BC to the McAbee fossil site in southern BC and to Republic city in north Washington.

Discovery of fossils deepens the mystery of the snake insect.

Fifty-two million year old boa fossils from Driftwood Canyon in British Columbia.Credits: Copyright Zootaxa.

According to Archibald, paleontologists have found two families of Snakeflies in these fossil sites, both thought to require winter to survive. Each family appears to have adapted independently to the cold winter after which these fossils lived.

“We now know that earlier in their evolutionary history, snakeflies lived in mild winter climates, so the question now becomes why they didn’t preserve their livelihoods in the region. Say, why are snakeflies not found in the tropics today? “

The fossils of fossils in these areas show links to Europe, the Pacific coast of Russia and even Australia.

Discovery of fossils deepens the mystery of the snake insect.

Archibald at Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park.Credits: Bruce Archibald.

Archibald stressed that understanding how organisms adapt to the climate by looking into the past could help explain why life is spread across the world today and might help anticipate. Predict how climate change will affect that pattern

“The findings come out of these fossil sites all the time,” Archibald said. “They are an integral part of our heritage.”


New fossil findings reveal 50 million-year-old Canada-Australia link


More information:
S. Bruce Archibald et al, Eocene snakeflies (Raphidioptera) in western North America from the Okanagan Plateau and the formation of the Green River. Zootaxa (2021). DOI: 10.11646 / zootaxa.4951.1.2

Offered by Simon Fraser University

Reference: Fossil discovery deepens the mystery of snake insects (2021, April 6) .Retrieved April 6, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-fossil-discovery-deepens-snakefly-mystery.html

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