December 10th, 2010


Amber Evolution

A recent amber discovery in India contains over 700 kinds of arthropods including bees, ants, termites, crustaceans and spiders. Apparently the amber was from a Gujarat province open pit mining operation, and contains at least 100 previously unknown species of insects. The history recorded in this batch of amber is from approximately 53 million years ago---just before India, which had broken off from the subcontinent called Gondwana, collided with Asia. That collision was supposed to have happened about 50 million years ago, and formed the Tibetan plateau. About 150 million years ago, the Indian tectonic plate separated from the African plate and began its 100 million year journey to Asia. During that long journey the subcontinent was isolated from all other continents, giving its wildlife the chance to evolve in distinctly different ways (much like the evolution of marsupials in Australia). So this data is a sample suspended in geological time, before the species on one floating block of land merged with the established biome of Asia. As such it is much more important that just being a bunch of bugs in pretty yellow stone. It helps us further map the biological history of many species.
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