A prehistoric mayfly that probably only may have only lived for minutes before dying has managed to survive as a fossil for up to 125 million years before being found by scientists.
University researchers found the fossil in Brazil’s Crato Formation, an Early Cretaceous geologic formation located in the Araripe Basin, an 8,000 square kilometre rift basin in the north-east of the country.
The researchers, from the Federal University of Espirito Santo, the Regional University of Cariri and the Federal University of Vicosa, published their findings in a press release on 28th October.
The fossil they collected belongs to the order Ephemeroptera, making it a type of mayfly. These flying insects typically live for few days, sometimes even just minutes, during their adult life. During their larval stage, they are aquatic.
The palaeontologists found the fossil was of an adult insect, and that it was a new species, genus and subfamily. The rock it was found in dates to the Early Cretaceous period, between 113 and 125 million years ago, when Africa and South America were still separating.
The fossil has been classed as belonging to the Oligoneuriidae family of brushleg mayflies. It has been named Incogemina nubila, which means ‘incomplete gemination’ in Latin, referring to the pattern of the veins in its wings. The term ‘nubila’ means ‘cloudy’, given the greyish colour of the limestone in which the fossil was preserved.
Fossils of the order Ephemeroptera are common in the Crato Formation. However, those from the family Oligoneuriidae are rare. In fact, it is only the second fossil found in the world of an adult from this family.
The research team also believes another known fossil that has been described in literature represents the same species.
Palaeontologist Taissa Rodrigues said: “As we know the place where the Incogemina nubila was found, it’s possible to plan collections in order to retrieve more fossils of this rare species.”
The team hopes that the find will allow them to discover new information about how mayflies evolved.
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