Fossil mystery solved?

3:12pm, October 10, 2007

Paleontologists have long wondered how aquatic creatures such as water beetles end up fossilized in amber, a material derived from hardened tree sap. One exotic suggestion was that the creatures had lived in water-filled clefts in trees, says Alexander R. Schmidt, a biologist at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin.

However, field tests in a swamp by Schmidt and paleobotanist David L. Dilcher of the University of Florida in Gainesville provide a simpler explanation. Within hours of resin dropping into water from a damaged pine tree, a variety of organisms—including the water beetle shown here—became stuck. The resin solidified when the swamp dried out, the researchers report in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.

More from Science News