About this amber
Excerpts from the article:
New Jersey has treasure trove of amber
by Jeff Poling © 1996
An American Museum of Natural History expedition to New Jersey has uncovered one of the richest deposits of amber ever found, with fossils of 100 unknown species of insects and plants trapped in the fossilized sap.
The fossils include:
- A tiny bouquet of miniature flowers from an oak tree that lived 90 million years ago,
- the world's oldest mosquito, with mouth parts tough enough to feed on dinosaurs,
- the oldest moth in amber, with mouth parts suggesting it was in transition from a biting insect to one that fed on the nectar of flowers,
- a feather that is the oldest record of a terrestrial bird in North America, and
- the oldest mushroom, bee and biting black fly to ever be found in amber.
The biting black fly is the only such insect known from the Cretaceous period, and it, along with the mosquito, may have counted dinosaurs among its victims.
David Grimaldi, curator and chairman of entomology at the American Museum of Natural History, said the species, all extinct, were found in 80 pounds of amber drawn out of deep mud in a complex of sites in central New Jersey. At one secret site in particular the clay is especially deep and rich. The clay contains streaks of peaty black material that are the remains of plants and other organic material. It is in these streaks that the amber was found.
The amber dates to 90 Ma to 94 Ma, meaning all the preserved species came from the "Age of the Dinosaurs" and from the era when flowers first evolved and began to spread through the ecosystem. At the time, insects were beginning to use flowers as food, and the flowers were beginning to use the insects to carry pollen from flower to flower.
An article describing the world's oldest preserved flowers, written by Grimaldi and his colleagues, Kevin Nixon and William Crepet of Cornell University, is to be published in early 1996 in The American Journal of Botany. It notes that the three flowers in the little bouquet are the only known flowers preserved from the Cretaceous period, which ended 65 Ma ago.
Until now, the study of plants from the Cretaceous has depended solely on the fossil impressions of flowers and pollen. Curiously, the flowers and some of the other fossils found at the New Jersey site are miniatures: the flowers and their stem together are no more than half an inch long.