December 15, 2012 11 Comments
Here is one of the more elegantly preserved specimens among the collection of Green River Formation fossil insects that I am photographing. It is obviously a fly (order Diptera), but I don’t agree with the preliminary identification of “Mosquito?” as indicated on its label. Rather, I think it is one of the fungus gnats—also members of the suborder Nematocera and, thus, closely related to mosquitos (family Culicidae), but with distinctly elongate coxae (bases of the legs) and lacking the elongated proboscis that mosquitos use for sucking blood. It’s hard to decide between Mycetophilidae (fungus gnats sensu stricto) or Sciaridae (dark-winged fungus gnats), which differ in whether the eyes meet above the antennae (Sciaridae) or not (Mycetophilidae). However, Borrer & White (1970) mention that species of the former are generally less than 5 mm in length, while the latter range from 5–10 mm. This specimen measures 4.15 mm from the front of the head to the tip of the abdomen, so maybe that is evidence supporting Sciaridae (although perhaps there were smaller mycetophilids 50 mya than today).
Here is a view of the whole fossil, measuring approximately 50 mm on each side:
Borrer, D. J. & R. W. White. 1970. A Field Guide to the Insects of America North of Mexico. Houghton Miffton Company, Boston, 404 pp.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012