A fly larva discovered among the remains of an Italian Renaissance princess -- often credited to be the true Mona Lisa -- has a produced a zoological puzzle, raising questions about the origins of the insect.
Widely believed to be a native of the Americas, the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) thrives on decaying organic material. It was thought to have first reached Europe in the early 1900s.
"We can now prove the insect was present in Europe several centuries before," Gino Fornaciari, professor of history of medicine and professor of paleopathology and funerary archaeology at the University of Pisa, told Discovery News.
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"Indeed we found a larva in the sarcophagus of the Italian princess Isabella of Aragon, who died in 1524," he added.
Isabella, the daughter of King Alfonso II of Naples, married her first cousin, the Duke of Milan Gian Galeazzo Sforza, in 1489.
For the occasion, Leonardo Da Vinci, who had been working in Milan as the court artist since 1482, orchestrated a magnificent party with plays, robots and fountains. Some art historians now argue that Isabella, and not Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, was the sitter for the Mona Lisa.