Scientists have recently been looking into a cache of fossils found more than 50 years ago in the Dominican Republic. With our present technological advances, scientists are making new discoveries about these 20-million-year-old fossilized insects trapped in amber.

The collection is going to be the largest collection of Dominican amber when it is finally curated, experts say. This will probably not be for another few years.

One discovery scientists have made by looking at the amber is a heretofore undiscovered species of pygmy locusts, a very small grasshopper that lived about 20 million years ago. This new species shows a link towards the evolution of locusts. The oldest discovered locusts had wings; modern locusts do not have wings. This locust seems to have vestigial wings, probably a step between ancient locust and modern locust. This is an important discovery in tracing the evolutionary chain of locusts.

Researchers wrote about this pygmy locust in the journal ZooKeys in an article published on July 30, 2014.

According to Sam Heads, a paleontologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, a group at the University of Illinois, "Grasshoppers are very rare in amber and this specimen is extraordinarily well-preserved."

Heads was one of the authors of the study. He found the grasshopper specimen with researchers Jared Thomas and Yinan Wang a few months into their project to look through the massive Dominican amber collection. Milton Sanderson, an entomologist, collected the amber in the late 1950s. Sanderson wrote a paper detailing some of the specimens found in the amber which was published in Science in 1960. However, much of Sanderson's amber collection remained unstudied and in storage until Heads pulled it out in 2010.

Heads gave the new pygmy locust that he discovered the name Electrotettix attenboroughi. Electrotettix is derived from the Latin word electrum, meaning "amber," and tettix, the Greek word for "grasshopper." He named the species after Sir David Attenborough, a British naturalist. (David's brother, Richard Attenborough, appeared in the film "Jurassic Park.")

Heads said in a statement, "Sir David has a personal interest in amber, and also he was one of my childhood heroes and still is one of my heroes and so I decided to name the species in his honor -- with his permission of course."

There were many other ancient insects in the amber collection, a treasure trove of information.

"Fossil insects can provide lots of insight into the evolution of specific traits and behaviors, and they also tell us about the history of the time period," Heads said. "They're a tremendous resource for understanding the ancient world, ancient ecosystems and the ancient climate - better even, perhaps, than dinosaur bones."

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