This ant and the mite that had clung to it remained trapped together for eternity. In fact, about 45 million years have passed since the two insects were swallowed by a drop of resin fallen from a plant, in a Baltic region, and since then they have remained so, embraced as they were at the time of death.
This is the second known example of a fossilized mite clinging to its host. The mite is only 0.7 mm long: in this scene of the past it seems to be a seal attached to the ant's head, a behavior reminiscent of the mites of today, which today - and precisely because of this behavior - is blamed for the fault of more or less sudden death of honey bee colonies.
"Although it is difficult to say with certainty, there is a very high probability that even the 45 million-year-old mite was a parasite, " says Jason Dunlop, arachnologist at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity in Berlin, who he adds: "The mite looks very similar to the modern ones, so I presume it had a similar life: it probably preferred to parasitize the ant rather than attack it directly".Close up of a mite feeding on the larva of a mosquito. | Nicole Ottawa / FEI
AS SUCH. An air bubble trapped between the two invertebrates hides some anatomical features which makes it difficult to identify the species of mite precisely. However according to Dunlop it should belong to the genus Myrmozercon, which includes numerous species that still exist. Mites are arachnids, a class of eight-legged arthropods that also include scorpions and spiders.
According to Dunlop the mite occasionally sucked the fluids from the ant's body for its own survival. In doing so he did not weaken the guest and could survive for a long time. He was transported and so sooner or later he arrived in the anthill, where, at the birth of his children, he would have had at his disposal an entire colony of ants to make them cling to.