Scientists on July 1 announced the discovery of amber fossils from the Cretaceous period still preserve the true colors of ancient insects.
Fossils often look very faint because most of the pigments and structures that bring color to animals have disappeared before the ravages of time. However, there are exceptions, such as the recent discovery by researchers from the Chinese Institute of Geology and Archeology (NIGPAS).
In an unearthed amber store in northern Myanmar, scientists recovered a total of 35 different insect fossils dating back 99 million years ago, including many ancient wasps. The shape and color are similar to today's wasps.
The 99 million-year-old insect fossils in amber retain their true colors. (Photo: NIGPAS).
"The amber dates back to the middle of the Cretaceous period, the golden age of dinosaurs. They were mostly plastic secreted by ancient conifers that grew in tropical rainforest environments. Animal and plant fossils objects trapped inside this thick layer of plastic are very well preserved, some of which have true color almost when they are still alive, " explains lead author Cai Chenyang, associate professor at NIGPAS.
Burning amber fossils in Myanmar have revealed ancient wasps with a mix of colors such as blue, green, purple, metallic green or yellow. In addition, the team recovered several fossils of beetles with blue and purple body, along with a soldier fly, which is dark metallic green.
"We have seen thousands of amber fossils before, but the color of the specimens in Myanmar is truly amazing," said Professor Huang Diying at NIGPAS.
The team adds that the type of color stored in amber fossils is called the structural color, because it is made up of the nanostructures of the animal's surface. These structures scatter different wavelengths of sunlight, creating very striking colors. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B .