How Do Aquatic Creatures Get Fossilized in Tree Sap?

amber, fossils, fossilized, mite in amber
Aquatic creatures fossilized in tree sap have continually puzzled scientists. (Image credit: Science/AAAS)

They probably never saw it coming. Minding their business, swimming around and then suddenly, their lives end in sticky resin from high up in a tree.

Bodies of freshwater creatures found frozen in amber have always puzzled scientists. Previously, scientists assumed the yellow-colored fossil of amber formed only on land. But researchers at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin recently discovered just how trees’ ancient, slow-moving sticky stuff might have caught swimming creatures and then turned to amber.

The scientists’ research suggests that resin dripped down the trunks of pine-like trees and fell into a swamp below. As the goo flowed into the water, it swallowed innocent swimmers-by, such as beetles and small crustaceans. The resin settled to the bottom and was covered by sediment.

After millions of years, the swamp dried up and the animal-rich resin hardened into amber.

Follow Life's Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.