Look what we found in some amber!

Shortly before Christmas last year, a trained geologist in our team was cleaning up a piece of old amber in the school loan collections. To his surprise, he discovered several invertebrates trapped inside the amber, including a spider and a fly. We have taken several photos which you can find on Flickr.

A fly and a spider trapped in amber
A fly and a spider trapped in amber

Amber is fossilised tree resin, which has been used since prehistoric times to make jewellery and other decorative items. The Bronze Age amber cup on display at Hove Museum is a famous example of its use. In its original sticky state, insects and other invertebrates can step on the amber. Once trapped, they are quickly engulfed by the resin. The amber hardens over time, and the creature can remain preserved for millions of years.

An invertebrate's eyes, captured in amber
An invertebrate's eyes, captured in amber

Fossils have an odd habit of being discovered unexpectedly. This story published yesterday about the discovery of a collection of Charles Darwin’s fossil specimens in the vault of the British Geological Survey is another example.

2 Responses

  1. Wow They are so clear, they look like they were pit there just yesterday.

    You must have some eagle eyed people working for you, I never find anything on the beach.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure where or how the original piece of amber was acquired, but it had remained unpolished for some time. The discovery of the entombed insects came much later.

      Credit for the photography should go to our Keeper of Natural Sciences, Gerald Legg. Gerald has a wide range of interests outside of his day job, and you can see some of his other photography on his personal website: http://chelifer.com/index.htm.

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