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Mites found in amber may be oldest ever discovered


The world's oldest fossils of mites were found in Italy recently and said to be about 230 million years-old.


A. Schmidt/ University of Göttingen

Mites trapped in amber were found in Italy recently - some of the oldest pre-historic antrhopods ever discovered.

The fossils, preserved in triassic period amber, are said to date back about 230 million years - with the oldest previously known anthropod discovery dating to about 135 million years ago.

Live Science reported that researchers at the Museum of Natural History in New York examined 70,000 droplets of the Italian amber and found only two ancient mites and one fly - both of which were either too small or nearly too small to see with the naked eye.

Researchers said that amber is far more reliable for preserving critters than stones.

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"Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years," said lead author David Grimaldi, curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, reported the BBC.

"That’s the great thing about amber. You can make this incredible detailed comparison with living species."

The study remarks that the ancient mites look surprisingly similar to those we have today but likely lived on trees, said the Washington Post.

Scientists believe that the new finding has potential to further complete the puzzle as to how insects and land-dwelling animals evolved to their modern forms.

The amber was originally unearthed by researchers from the University of Padova.

The discovery was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.