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Three tiny creatures from the Triassic period are the oldest ever to be discovered preserved in amber - about 100 million years older than any other amber arthropod ever collected.
The specimens, one fly and two mites, were found in droplets of amber from northeastern Italy just a few millimeters across. They could help scientists understand the evolution of arthropods - the most diverse grow organisms in the world, including insects, arachnids, and crustaceans.
"You would think that by going back to the Triassic you’d find a transitional form of gall mite, but no," says Grimaldi. "Even 230 million years ago, all of the distinguishing features of this family were there — a long, segmented body; only two pairs of legs instead of the usual four found in mites; unique feather claws, and mouthparts."
"There was a huge change in the flora and fauna in the Triassic because it was right after one of the most profound mass extinctions in history, at the end of the Permian," says Grimaldi. "It’s an important time to study if you want to know how life evolved."