Image: Cape York Amber Fly

Cape York Amber Fly

A Cape York Amber Fly, beautifully preserved in amber. It belongs to a genus that occurs in modern Australia.

Beth Norris
© Beth Norris


This fly was described by Dr Dan Bickel. It is the first species to be described from Cape York amber, Australia’s newly discovered and only significant amber deposit, from the coast of far north Queensland.

This species’ presence in Cape York amber tells a story about the origin of Australia’s biodiversity. The genus Chaetogonopteron is highly diverse in the Old World tropics (Africa, Orient, Australasia), with some 70 described species and many more awaiting discovery and description. In Australia, there are 20 distinct species (only 4 formally described) which occur in the monsoonal North and eastern rainforests, with diversity dropping markedly towards southern Australia. This suggests that Chaetogonopteron was not part of Australia’s original Gondwanan biota, but arrived on the continent more recently as the Australian continent drifted northward toward the Orient. The presence of this genus in amber, which is probably mid-Tertiary in age (30 million years ago), indicates it arrived in Australia before that time. 

Bickel, D. J. 2009. The first species described from Cape York Amber, Australia: Chaetogonopteron bethnorrisae n. sp. (Diptera: Dolichopodidae), p 35-39. In: Berning, B. & S. Podenas (Eds): Amber – Archive of Deep Time. Denisia 26, 294 pp.

Australia's Top 10 Species

The Cape York Amber Fly is one of the 'top 10' new species nominated by Australian scientists. During National Science Week (August 14-22) you can vote for your number one.

There are prizes for primary, middle and senior secondary students. Primary and middle school students could win a visit for their class to their state museum or a visit by a species discovery scientist. Senior secondary students could win a place on a Bush Blitz biodiversity survey.

Find out more from the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Bush Blitz website.

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Tags fossil fly, top 10 new species, amber,