Scientists have discovered a 100 -million-year-old mosquito perfectly preserved in brownish-yellow. They plan to use blood trapped within the mosquito to clone fossil and resurrect them from the dead. Only kidding. The ancient mosquito actually sheds light on the beginnings of malaria, a disease that kills over 400,000 people each year.
The team of researchers from Oregon State University recognise their little specimen belonged to a new genus and species, which they called Priscoculex burmanicus . em> It was found in amber in Myanmar that dates back to the mid-Cretaceous age. While the species is brand new, it shares numerous similarities with certain mosquitoes still buzzing about today, namely the anopheline mosquitoes, which are famed for carrying and transmitting malaria.
P. burmanicus and today’s anopheline mozzies have various things in common when it comes to their wing veins, feeler, abdomen, and proboscis( their long, blood-sucking mouthpart ). This suggests that the brand-new disclosure is an early pedigree of today’s disease vectors, which could mean they were carrying malaria 100 million years ago. The discovers are published in the periodical Historical Biology.
“Mosquitoes ought to be vectoring malaria at that time, but it’s still an open question, ” said George Poinar Jr. of Oregon State University’s College of Science. “Back then anopheline mosquitoes is likely piercing chicks, tiny mammals, and reptiles since they still feed upon those groups today.”
Malaria is caused by a number of parasites belonging to the Plasmodium genus. When infected female mosquitoes bite humans and animals to feed on their blood, the parasite is transmitted. The World Health Organization( WHO) estimates that nearly half of the world’s human population is in danger of being malaria, with those living in sub-Saharan Africa most at risk. Malaria infections are treatable, but an effective vaccine remains elusive, so preventative measures include insecticide and mosquito nets.
But could mosquito-borne malaria have also inflicted havoc on the fossils that lived 100 million years ago? Potentially, according to Poinar.
“There were catastrophic incidents that happened around that time, such as asteroid wallops, climatic changes, and lava flows, ” he wrote in his 2007 work What Defected the Dinosaurs? Bug, Disease and Death in the Cretaceous . “It’s still clear that dinosaurs rejected and slowly became extinct over thousands of years, which suggests other issues must also have been at work. Bugs, microbial pathogens such as malaria, and other vertebrate illness were just emerging around that time.”
The new study also sheds light on how Anopheles mosquitoes might have become so widespread– today they’re find in all regions of the world. The researchers note that their ancestors could have spread through Gondwana, an ancient supercontinent, before it divided into which are currently being Africa, South America, Madagascar, India, Australia, Antarctica, and Arabia.
“This discovery had indicated that anophelines were radiating- diversifying from ancestral species- on the ancient megacontinent of Gondwana because it is now thought that Myanmar amber fossils originated on Gondwana, ” Poinar explained.
Poinar previously discovered malaria in a fossilized mosquito found in the Dominican Republic, which was 15 to 20 million years old. It distinguished the first time Plasmodium had been found in fossil form.
“I see the fossil indication been demonstrated that modern malaria vectored by mosquitoes is at least 20 million years old, and earlier different forms of the disease, be borne by biting midge, are at least 100 million years old and likely much older, ” he said at the time.