back to article Ancient 16m-yr-old beastie caught riding on much bigger flying mount

A new 3D x-ray technique has revealed a tiny jumping wingless arthropod making a break for freedom after hitching a ride on a mayfly's wing - only to be caught in a drop of amber and frozen for the next 16 million years. Scientists at Manchester University uncovered the ancient story when Dr David Penney and colleagues decided …


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  1. EddieD


    Things like this make me wish I'd continued my career in Biology - I never got to play with the big toys, but I did get to gold plate a wasp once.

    And I'll need to read that PLoS article - they say symbiosis, but I don't really see the advantage for the mayfly in having prehensile antennae thrust into its wing. Unless it's having company for the long lonely minutes before the poor ephemeropteran shuffles off its mortal coil (or spring).

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

      Re: Incredible.

      Symbiosis does not imply benefit for both (or all) parties, only that at least on benefits. Parasitism, which this most likely falls under, is a form of symbiosis that benefits one party to the detriment of the other.

      1. Trygve

        You are confusing symbiosis with commensalism

        One party benefits - commensalism

        one benefits at exense of other - parasitism

        both benefit - mutualism

        symbiosis generally is used to mean long-term extensive co-dependent mutualism although as always there are lots of obsessives arguing about usage/defintions

        1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

          Re: You are confusing symbiosis with commensalism

          I was not confused. I remembered the list you give as being subcategories of symbiosis. I then looked up the term rather than assumed my memory was all it ought to be (e.g. While I agree that most people would use symbiosis exactly as you state, the authors of the PLoS One article would seem to fall within your definition of "obsessives." In this case, though, the relationship is indeed commensalism (phoresy is not parasitism as I initially assumed).

  2. NomNomNom

    "a tiny jumping wingless arthropod making a break for freedom after hitching a ride on a mayfly's wing - only to be caught in a drop of amber and frozen for the next 16 million years."

    amber yet again. But if amber is a natural force and isn't alive how does it catch so many animals? All I know is amber will get me in the end if nothing else will. even if science develops an elixir of eternal life and gives it to me I will still know that one day I will be caught by amber. No-one ever sees amber coming, i dont even know what it looks like. poor wingless arthropod. bloody amber!

    1. xperroni
      Paris Hilton

      Humor aside, this is something I don't get: how come so many small critters got trapped in amber in ancient times? Were plants more... "Resinous" back then? Does it still happen today and we just don't get to notice?

      1. Grikath Silver badge

        It still happens everywhere pine, sugar maple, sugar palms, and other Green Stuff of that ilk grow. Insects get trapped and engulfed, and if we wouldn't use most of those shrubs and trees as product crops, eventually the resin buildup would be covered up and with a bit of luck, fossilise.

        The Green Stuff nowadays may be quite different from the Carniforous era, but the principle is the same.

      2. TechnicalBen Silver badge


        No, there were just no humans to cut down such trees. In non-urban areas this is still a common occurrence. At least I'd assume. It's late, so I'd not risk a wiki expedition (with sources of cause!) to check. :)

      3. Peter Ford

        Just think of the numbers

        P1 = Probability of getting trapped in amber: fairly small number (like 0.0000001)

        B = Number of bugs at any one time: very large number (like 1 billion)

        T = Amount of time available for it to happen (when trees and bugs exist at the same time): large number (say, 100 billion seconds)

        P2 = Probability of that blob of amber fossilizing, and being found by someone: small number (like 0.0000001)

        Therefore, expected number of bugs in amber = B * P1 * T * P1 = modest number (about a million)

        These numbers are guesses, but you get the idea...

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Fascinating stuff - can't help feeling as bit sorry for the victims.

  4. NukEvil
    Thumb Down


    Don't you just hate it when another person does an action that causes you to be late for something?

    Mayfly: OMG, amber is coming!

    Springtail: *jumps* WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE *thunk!*

    Mayfly: WTF, get offa me! *glubglubglub*

    Springtail: *glubglubglub*

    amber: I guess you can say that both of you are *takes off sunglasses* late for the party (or something equally lame)

    Thumbs down, because that's the only direction amber can travel, right?

  5. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up


    Next time just don't stop to pick up a hitch-hiker!

    1. Jedit

      "Next time just don't stop to pick up a hitch-hiker!"

      Don't be silly, springtails don't hitch-hike. They don't have thumbs.

  6. Anonymous John

    This has given me an idea for a film.

    As soon as I work out how a dinosaur could get trapped in amber.

    1. Michael Dunn

      Re: This has given me an idea for a film.

      You weren't paying attention - you only need some dynosaur blood in the belly of a mosquito.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Areial Equines

    Came here looking for Pegasus-s-s-s-s , and left rather disappointed.

  8. Ken Laing


    Sounds like a storyline for Scrat in film Ice Age ?

  9. Martin Huizing

    3D imaging... million year old fossils...

    Hook the 3D image to a 3D printer = mind blown!

    Science rules!

  10. Martin Budden
    Thumb Up

    phoresy !

    I'd like to upvote the entire article just for the word "phoresy".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: phoresy !

      Sadly they made a mistake. It's not phoresy, it's horsey.

  11. The Stainless Steel Cat

    "...tiny aerial equestrian"

    So the bigger story here is that horses evolved from mayflies?

    Mine's the one with the Latin dictionary in the pocket.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: "...tiny aerial equestrian"

    2. Peter Ford

      Re: "...tiny aerial equestrian"

      Even more important, Jockeys evolved from springtails!

  12. P. Lee Silver badge

    Hitching on a mayfly?

    That was never going to be a long ride.

  13. Paul Johnston


    Creatures would do anything to avoid Ryan Air back in those days as well!

  14. Blake St. Claire

    caught in a blob of amber

    I'm inclined to believe it was caught in a blob of tree sap. Tree sap that later became amber.

  15. The Envoy

    Are they sure it's not a bug in the software...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Before ambulances.

    Evidence of the first lawyer.

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