Fossil found near Kamloops suggests connection between Australia and Canada | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Fossil found near Kamloops suggests connection between Australia and Canada

The fossil of a split-footed lacewing was recently found near Kamloops and the only modern relative are in Australia.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Simon Fraser University
June 17, 2020 - 7:00 AM

A team of researchers has found a fossil near Kamloops that suggests a land connection between Canada and Australia some 50 million years ago.

A release from Simon Fraser University states that the fossil is from an insect called the split-footed lacewing. The modern-day relative of the species is found only in Australia.

Two paleontologists, Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and the Royal British Columbia Museum and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok, published their findings in The Canadian Entomologist.

Previous fossils from that time period have been found in B.C. and Washington, and the findings have shown connections such as Pacific coastal Russia connected with the west coast of North America, and Europe to the east. The release states these findings were not surprising as it is believed the northern continents were connected at that time, and the warmer climate during that period made it easier for plants and animals to disperse around the continents.

“Fifty million years ago, sea levels were lower, exposing more land between North America and Asia, and the Atlantic Ocean had not widened, leaving Europe and North America still joined across high latitudes,” Archibald says in the media release.

The new question that has arisen from the discovery of the split-footed lacewing is how Australia might have once been connected to the northern landmass. The release states that the Australian continent was once closer to Antarctica and further from Asia, which suggested oceans were a barrier, preventing plant and animal life from moving between Australia and the west coast of Canada.

“A pattern is emerging that we don’t quite understand yet, but has interesting implications,” Archibald says in the release.

The lacewing fossil is now a part of a group of fossils from B.C. and Washington that have modern relatives found exclusively in Australia. Some of the species found down under include bulldog ants, a certain family of termites and one species of a parasitoid wasp.

This is one of the modern relatives of the split-footed lacewing, which is in the subfamily Nymphinae. The subfamily is found only in Australia.
This is one of the modern relatives of the split-footed lacewing, which is in the subfamily Nymphinae. The subfamily is found only in Australia.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Simon Fraser University

It’s believed the connection may come from the similar climates of the continents. At the time, B.C. had very mild winters similar to Australia.

“It could be that these insect groups are today restricted to regions of the world where climates in key ways resemble those 50 million years ago in the far western Canadian mountains,” says Archibald in the release.

“The more we know about these insects, the more we can piece together the history of how climate and the movement of continents have shaped global patterns of the distributions of life that we see in our modern world,” Makarkin says in the release. “To understand where we are today and where we may be going with the big changes that we are seeing in global climates, we need to understand what’s happened in the deep past."

Whatever the connection may be, the paleontologists agree this was a very rare find.

“These fossils are rare,” Makarkin says. “This is only the fourth one found from this time-span worldwide, and it’s the most completely preserved.”


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