Academic journal article Science and Children

Amber Deposit in India

Academic journal article Science and Children

Amber Deposit in India

Article excerpt

A vast new amber deposit in India has yielded 100 fossil spiders, bees, and flies that date to the Early Eocene, or 52-50 million years ago. These arthropods are not unique--as would be expected on an island (which India was at that time)--but have close evolutionary relationships with fossils from the Americas, Europe, and Asia. The amber is also the oldest evidence of a tropical broadleaf rainforest in Asia.

The discovery was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

David Grimaldi, curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, said India was isolated, but when and for precisely how long is unclear.

"The biological evidence in the amber deposit shows that there was some biotic connection," he said.

Amber from broadleaf trees is rare in the fossil record until the Tertiary, or after the dinosaurs went extinct. It was during this era that flowering plants rather than conifers began to dominate forests and developed the ecosystem that still straddles the equator today. The new amber, and amber from Colombia that is 10 million years older, indicates that tropical forests are older than previously thought.

In the research paper, authors describe the Cambay amber as the oldest evidence of tropical forests in Asia. The amber has been chemically linked to Dipterocarpaceae, a family of hardwood trees that currently makes up 80% of the forest canopy in Southeast Asia. …

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