(ORDO NEWS) — Inside the pieces of amber mined in Myanmar, the rarest specimens of a fossil insect were found, retaining its fantastic color.
A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is devoted to the study of dozens of amber fossils of the Cretaceous period, which still contain traces of ancient insects that have retained their original color. Nevertheless, in these creatures that are alien to modern man, the familiar outlines and images that we see every day are guessed.
As a rule, pigments decay very quickly. Therefore, even those fossils that reach us almost in their original form, most often represent gray or brown gloom, which does not allow us to reliably judge the past and its inhabitants.
Color is not only a decoration, but also a factor in many behavioral mechanisms. He can tell paleontologists about what kind of survival strategy a particular creature adhered to. For example, bright coloring can serve to attract the attention of a mating partner, and can be a means of scaring away predators or disguising in a motley environment.
For a new study, a research team from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) studied 35 separate samples of amber with fantastically preserved insects trapped inside. Fossils were found in an amber mine in northern Myanmar.
“Mid-Cretaceous amber, about 99 million years old, dates back to the golden age of dinosaurs,” explains Tsai Chenyang, associate professor of NIGPAS and lead author of the new study. “Essentially, it is a resin derived from ancient conifers that grew in rainforests. Animals and plants locked in thick drops often reach us almost intact.”
Colors in nature are usually divided into three main categories: bioluminescence, pigments and structural colors. Amber fossils retain structural (including metallic) colors – intense, eye-catching. They arise due to microscopic light-scattering structures located on the heads, bodies and extremities of animals.
“The type of color stored in amber fossils is called structural color,” explained Pan Yanhong, co-author of the study and professor at NIGPAS. “A surface nanostructure scatters light of a specific wavelength, which produces very intense colors.” According to Pan, this mechanism is also responsible for the many colors that we meet in everyday life.
For the study, the fossils were ground using various grades of sandpaper and diatomaceous earth powder in order to get as close as possible to the contents of amber without damaging it. Where this facilitated observation, some pieces were squeezed almost to the fossil, as a result of which the insect became clearly visible, and the surrounding amber matrix looked almost transparent in bright light.
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