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If Jurassic Park taught us something, it is that velocirraptores learn quickly to open doors and that mosquitoes can remain fossilized for more than 100 million years in amber. What they didn’t tell in the mythical Spielberg movie is that, rarely and exceptionally, you can find traces of marine life also trapped in amber.
What we have today is one of those especially unusual cases where a unique amber of its kind is found, since an international research group led by Professor Wang Bo, of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, of the Academy of Sciences China (NIGPAS) has found the first known ammonite trapped in amber.
The ammonite, a species of marine animal, was trapped in an amber 99 million years ago recently found in northern Myanmar. This amber, which is 33mm long, 9.5mm wide and 29mm high, encloses a set of various organisms that inhabited both land and sea. They include at least 40 different animals in addition to the ammonite, such as mites, spiders, beetles, flies, sea snails and other crustaceans.
But how is it possible that an ammonite, a relative of extinct squid living in the sea, is preserved in a piece of amber that also contains land animals? Ammonite shells and sea snails offer possible clues.
All shells are empty and do not have soft tissues, so the organisms died long ago at the time they were wrapped by the resin. The outer layer of the ammonite is broken and the entrance of the roof is full of sand.
The most likely explanation for the appearance of marine and terrestrial organisms within amber is that a sandy beach covered with shells was located near resin producing trees. The flying insects were trapped in the resin while still in the tree. As the resin fell down the trunk, it caught organisms that lived near the foot of the tree. Upon arriving at the beach, he buried the shells and caught the animals that lived there.