At a time when dinosaurs were first appearing on the Earth, a much smaller creature that still exists today was hanging out in the trees: the gall mite. Scientist David Grimaldi from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, working with a team of researchers, recently discovered the remains of two previously undiscovered species of mites preserved in amber from northeastern Italy. Triasacarus fedelei and Ampezzoa triassica are the most ancient members of Eriophyoidea, a group of mites that form growths called galls and includes about 3,500 species alive today. The ancient mites were found to be quite similar to modern gall mites: they have a long segmented body, 2 pairs of legs, feather claws, and the distinctive mouthparts characteristic of the group. T. fedelei and A. triassica were apparently an evolutionary success: when flowering plants came into being, the mites easily switched from eating coniferous plants to the new and abundant flowering plants.
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The scientific study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.