Mites are best known for being very small, with most species less than a millimetre long. A recent discovery from the 100 million year old Burmese amber of Myanmar is thus remarkable. With about one centimetre in length, it can be considered as a giant among mites as it were. Immensmaris chewbaccei was described in the scientific journal Fossil Record by a German–Polish research team led by Dr. Jason Dunlop from the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. It was named after the ‘Star Wars’ character Chewbacca and is the largest fossil mite ever discovered.
Mites are the most diverse arachnids, with more than 50,000 living species described. Most of them are tiny and largely inconspicuous. Fossil mites remain rare, although they are found fairly frequently in amber. But, due to their small size, they are difficult to study.
An unexpected discovery was thus a fossil mite, found in a private collection that has been purchased by the Museum. The animal in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber of Myanmar is visible with naked eye and without the help of a microscope.
Dr. Jason Dunlop, scientist at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin and expert for the evolution of arachnids, describes the discovery as “a fascinating insight into life in a tropical forest about 100 million years ago, when mostly insects and arachnids crawled under the feet of the dinosaurs. Several unusual arthropods have already been discovered in Burmese amber, and a giant mite is an interesting addition to the fauna.”
The new fossil belongs to a group of mites called the parasitengonids. Adults and some juvenile stages of these mites are predators, with extensible mouthparts which they use to probe for food, typically small insects or their eggs.
All known species of the group have a juvenile stage, in which they live as a parasite, usually sucking blood from an insect or another arachnid. However, the research team cannot say, what juveniles of this large fossil mite fed on.
Immensmaris chewbaccei also has feet with special hairs, which were not only inspiration for the name, but may have been an adaptation for climbing. If it climbed trees or lived on tree bark, this may explain how it became trapped in sticky resin which eventually solidified into amber.
Some living parasitengonids are relatively large with body lengths of a few millimetres. The newly discovered fossil is the largest of its family group and, indeed, one of the largest mites ever found. Only a single, living relative from another family of parasitengonids outrivals the Cretaceous relative. The giant velvet mite (Dinothrombium tinctorium) can reach 14 mm in length.
Dr. Jason Dunlop
Tel: +49 30 889140 - 8516
Dunlop, J. A., Frahnert, K. & Mąkol, J. 2018. A giant mite in Cretaceous Burmese amber. Fossil Record 21, 285–290. Doi https://doi.org/10.5194/fr-21-1-2018
Dr. Gesine Steiner | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Volcanoes under pressure
18.11.2019 | Technical University of Munich (TUM)
New findings on the largest natural sulfur source in the atmosphere
18.11.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Troposphärenforschung e. V.
Nanooptical traps are a promising building block for quantum technologies. Austrian and German scientists have now removed an important obstacle to their practical use. They were able to show that a special form of mechanical vibration heats trapped particles in a very short time and knocks them out of the trap.
By controlling individual atoms, quantum properties can be investigated and made usable for technological applications. For about ten years, physicists have...
An international team of scientists, including three researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has shed new light on one of the central mysteries of solar physics: how energy from the Sun is transferred to the star's upper atmosphere, heating it to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit and higher in some regions, temperatures that are vastly hotter than the Sun's surface.
With new images from NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the researchers have revealed in groundbreaking, granular detail what appears to be a likely...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.
New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...
If you've ever tried to put several really strong, small cube magnets right next to each other on a magnetic board, you'll know that you just can't do it. What happens is that the magnets always arrange themselves in a column sticking out vertically from the magnetic board. Moreover, it's almost impossible to join several rows of these magnets together to form a flat surface. That's because magnets are dipolar. Equal poles repel each other, with the north pole of one magnet always attaching itself to the south pole of another and vice versa. This explains why they form a column with all the magnets aligned the same way.
Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have managed to create magnetic building blocks in the shape of cubes that - for the first time ever - can be joined together to...
15.11.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
05.11.2019 | Event News
19.11.2019 | Life Sciences
19.11.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.11.2019 | Health and Medicine