National Geographic : 2006 Jul
FOSSILS Butterfly Jewels A bad day for some extinct metalmark butterflies was a lucky break for scientists, who say that these beautifully preserved specimens could help extend the range of but terfly history. About 20 million years ago in what is now the Dominican Republic, the butterflies laid their eggs on plants clinging to resinous trees. Oozing resin trapped the butterflies and eventually hardened into amber. Jason P. W. Hall of the National Museum of Natural History studied five of the amber trapped specimens bought from collec tors. He says they are a sister species to a living metalmark butterfly-which means both had an earlier common ancestor. "The sister species diverged about 40 to 50 million years ago," says Hall. That's about as far back as butterfly fossils go, but Hall says the predecessor may have lived even earlier, "possibly with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago." -John L. Eliot Fresh Dirt A dino campus is in the works for the University of Pittsburgh. Rancher Alan Cook donated a 4,700-acre Wyoming tract rich in late Jurassic and Cretaceous remains. The University of Wyoming and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will team up to help administer the land. The oldest insect ever found lived in what is now Scotland about 410 million years ago. The rice-grain-size find is 30 million years older than any other insect fossil.