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Scientists have found a fossil of a mosquito with traces of blood in its engorged abdomen.

Scientists have found a fossil of a mosquito with traces of blood in its engorged abdomen.

Although scientists have found fossils of suspected blood-sucking insects, the creatures’ feeding habits have mostly been inferred from their anatomy or the presence of blood-borne parasites in their guts. But Greenwalt’s fossilized mosquito contains molecules that provide strong evidence of blood-feeding among ancient insects back to 46 million years ago. It is a fortunate find. “The abdomen of a blood-engorged mosquito is like a balloon ready to burst. It is very fragile,” says Greenwalt. “The chances that it wouldn’t have disintegrated prior to fossilization were infinitesimally small.”

Some news reports have implied that the scientists had found actual blood 46 million years old. This is not the case. They found “large traces of iron and the organic molecule porphyrin — both constituents of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment found in vertebrate blood. These molecules were either rare or absent in the abdomen of a fossilized male mosquito (which does not drink blood) of the same age, found at the same location.” Still, even though this isn’t actual blood, the evidence is good and so the result is quite cool.