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135 million-year-old bug found in Jordan.

By Rana Sweis, Star Staff Writer Ancient pieces of insects were found in Jordan recently offering researchers a precious glimpse on how things were on earth tens of millions of years ago. During a family trip, researcher Hani Kaddoumi discovered the fragile pieces that date back 135 million years. "The prevailing conditions in this area of the world were far different than what they are today," said Kaddoumi. According to the researcher, Jordan was a part of the Arabian-African continent and much of the land was submerged below the southeastern part of the Tethys Sea, which formed a water barrier between both continents. Right at the same time, a great ancient river coming from Africa made its way through Jordan. Still not everything changed; ancient trees, like modern ones, produced a glue-like resin. Prior to drying, the resin became sticky and fatally entrapped many of the insects that found shelter near the ancient river. "Soon after the ill-fated insect got stuck to the resin, it got covered with layers upon layers of the sticky substance that has an unsurpassed ability of preserving all that falls within," said Kaddoumi. The trees that were home to billions of insects died and turned into coal and lignite. The first sign of such a discovery date back to the 1960s when Abbas Hadadin--who worked at the Ministry of Finance and was responsible for the detection of super-phosphate in the northern parts of the country--dedicated much of his time exploring the different biological make-up of various insects. And now it's Kaddoumi's turn to carry out such a mission. Kaddoumi explained that dinosaurs and species of insects that found shelter within the vanished environment are all extinct now; therefore, it's of immense value to study their remains if possible. "The resin that glowed on the trees fossilized and turned into a translucent or an opaque stone with varied colors," Kaddoumi added. Amber, the aging resin of several different trees and shrubs, was of unknown origin to the people at the time; it was revered as a great element in magic and often used as a lucky charm. And because it was found most frequently on the banks of streams, in old lakebeds, or in the sea, it was often thought to be the product of a fish called Amberfish. Amber is formed as a result of the fossilization of resin, which takes millions of years to be formed. "Within the layers of the fossilized resin, time has stopped and the perfectly preserved remains of insects and other materials can be seen just as they appeared at their final moments 135 million years ago," Kaddoumi said. In contrast to Lebanese amber, which held 98 percent insect material, Jordanian amber held only 2 percent, according to the researcher who has been interested in fossils since he was very young. "Since amber is not commonly found, much time and effort have to be invested in order to find it. When found, many hours are needed to prepare specimens for microscopic scanning, then more time to locate an insect." Jordanian amber is very rare and comes in different colors including: Yellow, red, brown and black. It is fragile and thus lacks the qualification of a precious stone. "When we went on a day trip my daughters and I noticed little shiny things," said the researcher, who refused to disclose the location of his discovery. "Its importance is purely scientific due to its age and its biological inclusions. Jordanian, Palestinian and Lebanese amber are considered the oldest in the world," said Kaddoumi. "Who knows, Jordanian amber may soon prove to be the oldest in the world."

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Feb 16, 2004
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