Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a tiny creature from millions of years ago gets engulfed in the resin of some ancient tree, staying perfectly preserved for eons until scientists at a present-day excavation on a tropical island unearth it. The next step is inevitably to take its DNA and birth a fleet of dinosaurs.
OSU scientists are not likely to be cloning any long-extinct species, at least in this project, but they have found a baby salamander in a glorp of amber. Bearing in mind that a “glorp” is neither a standard unit of measurement nor a real word, and certainly not a scientific term, I think you know what I mean when I describe the amber hunk the fossil was discovered in. The baby salamander was found on an island in the Caribbean Sea—there are none of these salamanders anywhere else in the Caribbean.
George Poinar, Jr. is a professor emeritus in OSU’s College of Science and a well-known expert on goodies preserved in amber.
“I was shocked when I first saw it in amber,” said Poinar of the salamander. “There are very few salamander fossils of any type, and no one has ever found a salamander preserved in amber. Finding it in Dominican amber was especially unexpected, because today no salamanders, even living ones, have ever been found in that region.”
The salamander in question is 20 to 30 million years old, and its importance on the field of study cannot yet be quantified. Fossils like this help geologists and ecologists particularly in reconstructing long ago events that had major effects on our world today.
No word yet on when OSU will be reanimating these fierce and tiny salamanders and opening a teeny, tiny theme park… for them to rampage out of control in.
By Sidney Reilly