The anopheline mosquitoes that carry malaria were present 100 million years ago, new research shows, potentially shedding fresh light on the history of a disease that continues to kill more than 400,000 people annually.
“Mosquitoes could have been vectoring malaria at that time, but it’s still an open question,” said the study’s corresponding author, George Poinar Jr. of Oregon State University’s College of Science. “Back then anopheline mosquitoes were probably biting birds, small mammals and reptiles since they still feed on those groups today.”
In amber from Myanmar that dates to the mid-Cretaceous Period, Poinar and co-authors described a new genus and species of mosquito, which was named Priscoculex burmanicus. Various characteristics, including those related to wing veins, proboscis, antennae and abdomen indicate that Priscoculex is an early lineage of the anopheline mosquitoes.
“This discovery provides evidence that anophelines were radiating — diversifying from ancestral species — on the ancient megacontinent of Gondwana because it is now thought that Myanmar amber fossils originated on Gondwana,” said Poinar, an international expert in using plant and animal life forms preserved in amber to learn more about the biology and ecology of the distant past. Paper. (paywall) – George Poinar, Thomas J. Zavortink, Alex Brown. Priscoculex burmanicus n. gen. et sp. (Diptera: Culicidae: Anophelinae) from mid-Cretaceous Myanmar amber. Historical Biology, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2019.1570185 More.
The previous “earliest” record was from a fossil dated to 15 to 20 million years ago but what we don’t yet know is, did the mosquito then have the relationship it now has with the malaria parasite
Amber is like video when it comes to information about life forms because it so often traps movement:
See also: Millipedes Found In 100 Mya Amber Comprise 13 Of 16 Known Groups
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How did 20-30 myo salamander in amber get IN there?