Scientists have found 95-million-year-old ancestors of modern spiders, wasps, ferns, and wingless ants inside samples of fossilized African amber. The amber samples date back to the middle of the Cretaceous era (when birds, mammals, and flowering plants were emerging) and come from what is now northwest Ethiopia. Wired Science expounds on the significance of the findings:
While it will take years to interpret the ecological tales trapped in the new amber, one important story is already suggested. Inside the Ethiopian amber is an ant that looks nothing like ants found in Cretaceous amber from France and Burma. Those deposits had placed the origin of ants in Laurasia. That's no longer certain."The Ethiopian amber is of great importance for improving our knowledge of the evolutionary history of terrestrial arthropods, plants and Fungi," wrote the researchers.Fortunately, there were lots of dinosaurs around in the Cretaceous era (which followed the Jurassic). Whether scientists will find in the bugs the requisite dino-DNA for opening the world's greatest island amusement park remains to be seen.CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that there weren't many dinosaurs around in the Cretaceous era, which, as Dan Bremmer correctly notes, was actually the heyday of the dinosaurs. They were around until about 65 million years ago, when the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event (or Cretaceous–Paleogene event) took place.Wingless ant photo from Alexander Schmidt/PNAS via Wired Science.