France Used to Be a Jungle

Oise ambers and insect inclusion (Trichoptera) in Oise amber. Copyright 2007 American Chemical Society

Where the Champs Elysee, the Eiffel Tower and sprawling vineyards now stand, there might once have been an Amazon-like jungle.

A new analysis of amber fossils collected in France suggests that the country was once covered by a dense tropical rainforest.

The 55-milllion-year-old pieces of amber (fossilized tree sap) were found near the Oise River in northern France. The trees that once oozed them are long gone.

Amber from different sites tends to have different chemical compositions.

The new study, detailed in the Jan. 4 issue of The Journal of Organic Chemistry, reports the discovery of a new organic compound in amber called “quesnoin,” whose precursor exists only in sap produced by a tree currently growing only in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

The researchers say the amber likely dripped from a similar tree that once covered France millions of years before the continents drifted into their current positions.

“The region corresponding to modern France could have been found in a geographically critical marshy zone belonging to Africa and a tropical zone 55 million years ago extending through North Africa to the Amazon,” the authors wrote.

  • Life's Little Mysteries
  • Images: Earth from Above
  • 101 Amazing Earth Facts
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.