You know, sometimes science stuff happens that’s so cool, I squeal like a girl and prance about in glee. Waggle of the antennae to Gena Gulamentum* for the tip:

“The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, produces an intense, high-energy light that can pierce just about any material, revealing its inner structure…. Tafforeau and colleague Malvina Lak have put kilos of opaque amber chunks in the way of this beam and have found a treasure trove of ancient organisms.

From more than 600 blocks, they have identified nearly 360 fossil animals. Wasps, flies, ants – even spiders. There are also small fragments of plant material. All of it caught up in the sticky goo of some prehistoric tree and then locked away until modern science provided the key.”

Make sure you visit the BBC site for the whole story, and to see a video of how it’s done, and some amazing photographs!

There is also a slightly more technical discussion at the ESRF site: “Non-destructive study of fossil inclusions in opaque amber using phase contrast X-ray synchrotron imaging.”
And, their recent press release with even more nifty photos.


*I think Gena would make a great guest blogger. I hear she plays regularly in the band Bikini Science, too.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. What’s even cooler is that the “Ant” they use as an example is Sphecomyrma, a classic transitional fossil. Sort of like the Archaeopteryx of ants.

  2. The internal detail of the specimens is amazing–eventually you might get to look inside that Archaeopteryx :)

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