Our paleontologist colleague Günter Bechly is a delightful person and a fearless pursuer of truth. He’s also a superb scientist, and it’s a pleasure to follow his publications.
In a brief video excerpt from the documentary Revolutionary, he describes his background prior to his own personal and perilous discovery of the evidence for design in nature. As Dr. Bechly explains, his approach to the subject proceeded from a fascination with “nature, animals, and natural science.” In the field of paleo-entomology, his special fascination is with dragonflies. His latest work, “First record of hawker dragonflies from Eocene Baltic amber,” co-authored with Stefan Pinkert and André Nel, is out now in the journal Zootaxa.
They describe, “based on three specimens, …a new genus with two new species.” They place the specimens in the Middle-Upper Eocene, somewhere in the neighborhood of 37 million years old. Amazing. From the paper:
Baltic amber is a fossil resin from a conifer tree species (most probably Sciadopithys or Pseudolarix, Wolfe et al. 2009) that formed widespread tropical/subtropical forests from Scandinavia to Eastern Europe during the Middle and Upper Eocene. Most amber pieces originate from secondary deposits along the coast of the Baltic Sea. While small insects (predominantly Diptera and Hymenoptera) are abundant and completely preserved as inclusions in Baltic amber, large insects are much rarer and usually fragmentary, because they could either escape the sticky resin or were eaten by scavenging insects before completely embedded. Odonata are especially rare in Baltic amber (Bechly 1996a, 1998), while they are very diverse and surprisingly frequent in Mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber (Zheng et al. 2016a,b, 2017). Anisoptera are even more elusive, with only four specimens yet reported from Baltic amber (Bechly 1998; Bechly & Wichard 2008), one more from Paris Basin amber (Fleck et al. 2000), and three more from Burmese amber (Schädel & Bechly 2016; Zheng et al. 2016a,b, 2017). Schädel & Bechly (2016) already briefly mentioned one undescribed Macromiidae and two undescribed specimens (described herein) of Gomphaeschninae in the Baltic amber collection of SMNS. Based on three specimens of two new species of the same new genus we here describe the first record of hawker dragonflies in Baltic amber and only the third record of this Anisopteran group in amber at all (Zheng et al. 2016b, 2017).
Congratulations! Certainly, the photos are gorgeous, and with Dr. Bechly’s permission I’m delighted to share a few here.