You might know amber for its aesthetic appeal, but for paleontologists, the gemstone is a thrilling way to find answers to big questions about the evolution, extinction, and conservation of ancient ecosystems. One of the latest amber discoveries to offer such extraordinary insights comes from researchers at Oregon State University, who have identified a new species of flower dating back to 100 million years ago.
The new type of flower was fossilized in a piece of amber found in a region of northern Myanmar, known for its rich 100-million-year-old deposits. The discovery was made by a research team led by George Poinar Jr., a legendary paleobiologist who inspired Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton.
The stunningly well-preserved specimen is a type of angiosperm male flowering plant which, Poinar notes, displays amazing detail. “Despite being so small, the detail still remaining is amazing,” explains Poinar. “Our specimen was probably part of a cluster on the plant that contained many similar flowers, some possibly female. The male flower is tiny, about 2 millimeters across, but it has some 50 stamens arranged like a spiral, with anthers pointing toward the sky.”
In recent years, amber discoveries have surprised paleontologists with an incredible assortment of ancient organisms, from spiders and prehistoric snakes to giant sperm and mammalian blood cells. This new fossil flower offers yet another insight into ancient ecosystems from millions of years ago.