Scientist who helped inspire Jurassic Park reveals 30 million year-old microcosm trapped in amber

A wasp, flower, and fly larvar have been trapped together in amber for 30 million years. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but this is actually the story of a new scientific discovery. Oregon State University biologist George Poinar Jr.—the scientist who helped inspire Jurassic Park—found what appears to be a microcosm of pollination and predation (and possibly parasitism) held within the amber chip.

"In many cases, unrelated organisms become entombed together in amber just by chance," Poinar said. "But I feel that in this case, the wasp was attracted to the flower, either for obtaining nectar or in attempts to deposit an egg on the capsule that contains the fly larva."

The preserved flower is the first fossilized specimen of the plant genus Plukenetia. From Science Alert:

The fossilized wasp – Hambletonia dominicana, discovered and named by Poinar in 2020 – is an encyrtid wasp, a group of parasites known for laying their offspring with the eggs or larvae of smaller insects, which become a meal for the developing young wasps.

Using high-resolution imaging, Poinar noticed a tiny gall gnat (Cecidomyiidae) larva within one of the flower's developing seeds and the damage to the ovary capsule the gnat inhabits.

He thinks the wasp could have been attracted to the infected flower to lay an egg that, after hatching, would have soon parasitized the gall gnat larva.

Of course, the wasp's devious plot was interrupted when a blob of sticky resin abruptly froze all three organisms in the tableau they've been stuck in for millions of years.

More: "Entombed together: Rare fossil flower and parasitic wasp make for amber artwork" (Oregon State University)