Sunday, October 31, 2010

Amber holds keys to past

What can amber from India, 50 million years old, tell us about our pasts? Ask Dr. David Grimaldi, who's been finding hundreds of insect species in it. He told NPR's Science Friday:
"Well, we can actually see transitional forms between living and other extinct things. So fossils actually are important for evolutionary research. It tells us a lot about the origins of the Asian fauna. And this particular deposit, I find probably the most interesting aspect of it is that the resin, the amber, was actually formed from a type of tree called dipterocarps. And today, these types of trees are the dominant tree in Southeast Asia. And there had been some controversy about the age of tropical forests. And this is a unique discovery in terms of helping to date the age of tropical forests."

No dinosaur DNA (of course, the amber is too young anyway), but the large lumps of amber being pulled out of a lignite mine are time capsules of evolution.

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