A nifty bit of new research for the morning–New evidence about how insects ended up in amber:
“People never understood how freshwater algae and freshwater protozoans could be incorporated in amber because amber is considered to have been formed on land,” said Dilcher, who works at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “We showed that it just as well could be formed from resin exuded in watery swamp environments. Later the swamps may dry up and the resin hardens.”
Dilcher and Alexander Schmidt, a researcher at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, replicated the prehistoric demise of the water bugs by taking a handsaw to a swamp on Dilcher’s property near Gainesville in north Central Florida. After they cut bark from some pine trees, the resin flowed into the water and they collected the goo and took it back to Dilcher’s lab on campus. Stuck in the sticky sap were representatives of almost all the small inhabitants of the swamp ecosystem, Dilcher said. “We found beautiful examples of water beetles, mites, small crustaceans called ostracods, nematodes, and even fungi and bacteria living in the water,” he said.
The discovery not only solved the mystery of how swimming bugs could have been entombed in sticky sap from high up in a tree but could lead to new information about prehistoric, maybe even Jurassic, swamps, Dilcher said. Studying organisms that were trapped for millions of years in amber may help scientists to recreate prehistoric water ecosystems and learn how these life forms changed over time, he said.
EDITED 10/24 TO ADD: Catalogue of Organisms has a more detailed post on this paper–check it out!