May 23, 2024

Why is sap from a million-year-old tree so valuable to science

Why is sap from a million-year-old tree so valuable to science

Berlin. It’s a really old gimmick of nature. Even in the days of the dinosaurs, conifers secreted a sticky mucilage to seal their wounds. The sticky drops hardened and fell to the ground. Over millions of years it has been covered with more and more layers without air, transforming it into amber.

This often golden brown translucent stone can be found all over the world. It appears with us mainly on the shores of the Baltic and North Seas.

An insight into prehistoric flora

In contrast to botanical fossils such as fossil fern leaves, amber has enormous advantages for researchers such as ancient botanist Eva Maria Sadowski. The residues in amber are much finer and not flat. You can see what it looks like from all sides.

Eva-Maria Sadowski discovered a lot in the process: “The resin is very sticky. Insects, but also pollen or small flowers stick to it nicely. These impurities tell us a lot about primitive plants,” she explains. They both change over and over again in the course of Earth’s history.

The discoveries reveal a lot about the habitat and climate of this time

For example, amber is used from the large collection of the Natural History Museum in Berlin to search for clues. Additionally, collectors from all over the world send their pieces. However, experts estimate that only about every thousand amber contains truly interesting residues.

Eva-Maria Sadowski observes tiny mushrooms, delicate flowers and even pollen under her own microscope. It can even spot tiny mites, which previously caused a lot of itching in feathered dinosaurs. “We have learned a lot about habitat and climate in recent days from these discoveries,” the researcher says.

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Interesting discoveries from around the world

Particularly interesting amber finds come, for example, from the country of Myanmar in Asia. They are about 100 million years old. At that time it rained more than once and the seasons appeared. Herbivorous dinosaurs can now roll around in the grass and eat flowers. Pollen and flowers from this period are well preserved in amber.

Great finds can also be made in amber from Europe. For example, Eva Maria Sadowski and her colleagues found a carnivore. The plant, which was between 34 and 38 million years old, was also surrounded by amber.

The discovery reveals: The plant that still grows in South Africa today was very native to our region. Because at that time there was a completely different climate in Europe. It was warm and moist.