Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Mite and ant locked together in amber

Fossilized arachnid is oldest known specimen of a 'predatory mite', researchers say.

This ancient ant and its parasitic oppressor were trapped together for eternity when they became engulfed in tree resin in the Baltic region, some time between 49 and 44 million years ago. Researchers say that this is only the second known example of a fossilized mite attached to its host.

The 0.7-millimetre-long mite and its victim are preserved in amber, which is fossilized tree resin. The mite appears to be firmly attached to the ant’s head — a behaviour also seen in modern parasitic mites of the Varroa genus, which are often mentioned as possible culprits in the sudden collapse of honeybee colonies.

In a paper published on 10 September in Biology Letters1, researchers write that the mite belongs to the genus Myrmozercon, which includes numerous species still alive today. An air bubble trapped between the two invertebrates hides some anatomical features, making it hard to identify the exact species. Mites are arachnids, a class of eight-legged arthropods that includes spiders and scorpions.

Blue whales rebound in the PacificFew genes found linked to IQBenefactors to support CO2 monitoring

Dunlop received the specimen last year from Jörg Wunderlich, a German amateur arachnologist and former schoolteacher whose extensive collection is held in part by Frankfurt's Naturmuseum Senckenberg. “When he buys amber he examines it carefully for spiders, which he keeps for his own work,” Dunlop says. But if he finds something like a mite or a harvestmen [another group of arachnids], he often sends it to me.”

Mite of the genus Myrmozercon are still alive today. Credit: Jason Dunlop/Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin


  1. Dunlop, J. A., Kontschán, J., Walter, D. E. & Perrichot, V. Biol. Lett. 10, 20140531 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Related links

Related links

Related links in Nature Research

Lyme bacterium's possible ancestor found in ancient tick 2014-Jun-06

Unfortunate insects fossilized at their most intimate 2013-Nov-07

Blood-filled mosquito is a fossil first 2013-Oct-14

Europe debates risk to bees 2013-Apr-24

Molecular analysis supports controversial claim for dinosaur cells 2012-Oct-22

Related external links

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Castelvecchi, D. Mite and ant locked together in amber. Nature (2014).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing