A scientist has found a 100 million-year-old bee trapped in amber, making it possibly the oldest bee ever found.
"I knew right away what it was, because I had seen bees in younger amber before," said George Poinar, a zoology professor at Oregon State University.
The bee is about 40 million years older than previously found bees. The discovery of the ancient bee may help explain the rapid expansion and diversity of flowering plants during that time.
Poinar found the bee in amber from a mine in the Hukawng Valley of northern Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Many researchers buy bags of amber from miners to search for fossils. Amber, a translucent semiprecious stone, is a substance that begins as tree resin. The sticky resin entombs and preserves insects, pollen and other small organisms.
Also embedded in the amber are four kinds of flowers. "So we can imagine this little bee flitting around these tiny flowers millions of years ago," Poinar said.
An article on his discovery will appear Friday in the journal Science, co-authored by bee researcher Bryan Danforth of Cornell University.