Melittosphex burmensis

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Melittosphex burmensis
Temporal range: Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian?) 92 Ma
Melittosphex burmensis.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Suborder: Apoidea
Family: Melittosphecidae
Poinar & Danforth, 2006
Genus: Melittosphex
Poinar & Danforth, 2006
Species: M. burmensis
Binomial name
Melittosphex burmensis
Poinar & Danforth, 2006

Melittosphex burmensis is the oldest-known species of bee. The species was discovered as an amber inclusion in the year 2006 by George Poinar, Jr., a zoologist at Oregon State University. The amber was found in a mine in the Hukawng Valley of northern Myanmar and is believed to date from the Cretaceous Period, 100 million years ago.

Etymology[edit]

Melitta is a form of the Greek word μέλισσα (melissa), "honey bee",[1] while Sphex is a transliteration of the Greek word σφήξ, wasp.[2]

Description[edit]

M. burmensis is approximately one-fifth the size of the extant honeybee, at about 3 millimetres long. It is not related to any existing bee family. M. burmensis has some anatomical features similar to those of flesh-eating wasps, including the shape of its hind legs, but also some features of pollen-collecting bees, such as branched hairs on the body. The bee's head is heart-shaped.

The sample discovered is thought to be 100 million years old, 40 million years older than the next-oldest known bee species. The discovery of a bee from the Cretaceous Period with certain pollen-collecting features may help to explain the rapid expansion of flowering plants at that time in earth's history.

Poinar and bee researcher Bryan Danforth described M. burmensis in the journal Science.

References[edit]

  1. ^ μέλισσα, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus.
  2. ^ "Sphex". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 22 June 2015.