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A Hundred Million Year old Bee Found in Burmese Amber

  • Khin Myo Thet

An American scientist George Poinar, a zoology professor at Oregon State University has found a 100 million year old bee trapped in amber, making it possibly the oldest bee ever found.

The bee is about 40 million years older than previously found bees. The discovery of the ancient bee may help explain the rapid expansion and diversity of flowering plants during that time.

Poinar found the bee in amber from a mine in the Hukawng Valley of northern Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Many researchers buy bags of amber from miners to search for fossils.

Amber from Hukawng Valley was found in end of Early Cretaceous Period 65 my to 144my, Albian aged Metamorphic rocks, such as Shale. Amber, a translucent semiprecious stone, is a substance that begins as tree resin. The sticky resin entombs and preserves insects, pollen and other small organisms.

The recently completed sequencing of the honeybee genome already is giving scientists fresh insights into the social insects. Poinar's ancient male bee, Melittosphex burmensis, is not a honeybee and not related to any modern bee family.

The pollen-eating bee has a few features of meat-eating wasps, such as narrow hind legs, but the body's branched hairs are a key feature of pollen-spreading bees. The bee about one-fifth the size of today's worker honeybee has a heart-shaped head. But the ancient bee was probably an evolutionary dead end and may not have given rise to modern bees.

Information for this report is provided by AP.

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