Amber did it again. When you want a photo that was taken millions of years ago, you can trust Bernstein. And what was found this time, received in this material? No less than an enigmatic predatory insect … as it closed its jaws on its prey. There is no doubt that it is an unforgettable “photo”. The attack of an ant preserved in amber.
Researchers New Jersey (NJIT), China, and France found it. It’s 99 million years old. Well, amber preserves the Cretaceous predator, an ant from Hell (Haidomyrmecine). He does this while capturing his final victim, an extinct relative of the cockroach. And it was found in Myanmar.
It offers many details of a newly identified prehistoric ant, ‘Ceratomyrmex ellenbergeri’. Proof that these and other ants from Hell once used their killing properties. They moved their scythe-shaped jaws in a vertical motion to grab the prey. It was published in the journal Current Biology.
The line of ants from Hell disappeared 65 million years ago. ‘Petrified behavior is extremely rare, especially predators. As paleontologists, we speculate about it. But now we see an extinct predator trapped in catching its prey. It’s priceless, “admits Phillip Barden, professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
Lose the horns
The first ant from Hell was discovered about a hundred years ago. It’s a mystery why these extinct animals are so different from the ants we have today. “Modern ants do not have any horns. But some species of hell ants have horns that are covered with serrated teeth,” he adds.
A phylogenetic analysis was also performed to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships between Cretaceous and modern ants. They confirmed that the ants from hell belonged to one of the first branches of the evolutionary ant tree.
Ultimately, the fossil provides unequivocal answers to how this class of ant predators work. It was successful for nearly 20 million years. Questions remain like: Why did they become extinct? Now they will try to find out how extinction affects groups differently.
The shadow of extinction
“More than 99% of all species that have ever lived are extinct,” he recalls. It is important that we work to understand extinct diversity. The attack of an ant preserved in amber helps us understand why certain lines persist while others disappear. It’s a reminder that even something as ubiquitous and familiar as ants is extinct.