It's not quite Jurassic Park, but a team of scientists from the Smithsonian Institution has found the fossilized remains of a mosquito, from 46 million years back, still engorged with blood in shale sediments recovered in northwest Montana.
Experts found traces of iron inside the mosquito's belly and after further mass spectometry analysis of the molecules inside the insect, they were able to establish that there are also traces of organic compounds found in the oxygen-carrying molecule hemoglobin, a component of blood. The results of their study were published on the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Fossils, in addition to documenting the existence of extinct species, can often provide information on the behavior of ancient organisms," the study stated.
"Although large and fragile molecules such as DNA cannot survive fossilization, other complex organic molecules, in this case iron-stabilized heme, can survive intact and provide information relative to the mechanisms of the fossilization process," it further explained.
The experts cannot determine from what animal the blood came from since the porphyrins from the hemoglobin inside the mosquito will be identical among animals.
According to the proponents of the study, the preservation of the female mosquito, considering where it was found, was very improbable. Detailing what could have happened, the mosquito sucked blood from an animal, was blown to the surface of the water, sank to the bottom of the pond, and settled on the sediment.
"The chances that such an insect would be preserved in shale is almost infinitesimally small," exclaimed Dale Greenwalt, one of the authors of the study and researcher for Washington's National Museum of Natural History, in an interview with Live Science.
Greenwalt actually discovered and learned of the rare, preserved female mosquito when it was donated to the museum. The scientist ruled out the possibility of reproducing a dinosaur from the specimen but is amazed with the find as it proves that organic compounds can be extremely stable and can be preserved for millions of years.