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Fossil Discovery Finds Snakefly Mystery

Fossil discoveries provide answers to the questions about how our modern world came. They also deepen the mystery. The recent discovery of four new species of ancient insects in British Columbia and Washington state is proving. The findings, published in Zootaxa, raised questions about the evolutionary history of the distinctly elongated insects and why they live where they do today.

The fossil species discovered by palaeontologists Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences. They are from a group of insects known as snakeflies, now lived in the region some 50 million years ago. The Snakeflies are slender, predatory insects that are native to the Northern Hemisphere and noticeably absent from tropical regions.

Scientists believe that cold winters trigger development into adults, restricting them almost exclusively to regions that experience winter frost days or colder. The Fossil sites where the ancient species were found experienced a climate that doesn’t fit with this explanation.

Bruce Archibald said that the average yearly climate was moderate like Vancouver or Seattle today, but importantly, with very mild winters of few or no frost days. They also say that they can see this by the presence of frost intolerant plants like palms living in these forests along with more northerly plants like spruce.

The Fossil sites were discovered span 1,000 kilometres of an ancient upland from Driftwood Canyon in northwest B.C. to the McAbee fossil site in southern B.C., and the city of Republic in northern Washington. They also found species of two families of snakeflies in these fossil sites, both of which had previously been thought to require cold winters to survive. Each family appears to have independently adapted to cold winters after these Fossil species lived.

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