Fossil mystery solved?
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.