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Wednesday, 15 July 2020

These insects are still incredibly colorful even after 99 million years in Amber




In pic : Using these specimens, which are 99 million years old, scientists have been able to learn the secrets behind the vivid colours of prehistoric insects.


While scientists have been able to extract a lot of prehistory knowledge from fossils, they might not always be able to identify the coloring of an animal.

But a swarm of ancient insects fossilized in amber shows scientists just how vividly colored the earth was 99 million years ago, according to Science Alert.

"We've seen thousands of amber fossils but the preservation of color in these specimens is exceptional," said Huang Diying of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' (NIGPAS) Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology and a co-author of the report.

Such insects have been so well protected in tree resin that NIGPAS researchers are now able to see a diverse range of vibrant colours, including metallic greens, purples, and blues through them. These phenomenal findings were published on 1 July 2020 in Royal Society Proceedings B: Biological Sciences.

In pic : Because of the tree resin that embodies them, the exoskeletons on these colorful insects (left) remain intact.


Researchers examined 35 amber samples from the mid-Cretaceous period some 99 million years ago that date back to the "golden age of dinosaurs." They have been found at a northern Myanmar amber mine.

An investigation found completely intact bugs, cuckoo wasps, and a soldier flying all in different shades of vibrant hues. Their coloration is probably due to their exoskeletons being anatomically or nanostructured.

In the meantime the nanostructures on the colorful amber specimens were completely intact, which clarified why even after 99 million years they stayed so colourful. These findings suggest that the beautiful coloring that has now been seen on these prehistoric bugs was probably how they looked when alive.

Indeed, today some of that vibrant coloration has been passed down to their modern descendants. Scientists have discovered that the colouration was almost identical to the existing species on the ancient cuckoo wasps.

In pic : Modern cuckoo wasps' bold green color (pictured) is very identical to that of their prehistoric ancestors.


The study of fossils contained in amber was an important part of revealing the mysteries of the prehistoric world. Nevertheless, due to the unrest in Myanmar, where amber fossils are mostly harvested, scientists have been struggling with the ethics of this field of study in the last years.

There will certainly be more ways to access prehistory without losing human dignity as science continues to witness advancements in technology.