an army ant in amber

Researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Colorado State University have reported the discovery of the oldest army ant on record, preserved in Baltic amber dating from the Eocene about 35 million years ago).

The Europeans thought they were blessed by the gods not to suffer the voracious raids of the terrible army ants. In reality, providence eliminated them from the continent. For the first time, scientists have found a beautifully preserved fossil in amber. Mined from the Baltic around 1930, it had been lying around in a dark drawer in Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Geology ever since. The 3 millimeter insect, about thirty-five million years old, belongs to a hitherto unknown lineage and obviously extinguished. Devoid of eyes, this ant is close to another line of blind ants present in Africa and South Asia, named Dorylus. baptized Dissimulodorylus perseusit has sharp mandibles and a “enlarged antibiotic gland” witness, according to the researchers, of an exclusively subterranean way of life. So far, the only exhumed army ant fossil, estimated to be 16 million years old, came from the Caribbean.

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