In the classic sci-fi adventure Jurassic Park, eccentric entrepreneur John Hammond manages to recreate several iconic dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras using a tiny sample of dino DNA taken from the belly of a bloodsucking insect preserved in amber.
On the blockbuster film's release, way back in 1993, the idea of finding such a perfect snapshot of life in the steaming jungles of the Jurassic era seems wildly improbable.
But now – amazingly – it has happened.
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The jawbone of a duck-billed hadrosaur dating back some 75 million years has been recovered from a dig in Canada’s Dinosaur Provincial Park.
And stuck to it was, incredibly, a three-inch blob of amber containing several fragments of trees and one unfortunate greenfly.
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The find has been written up in detail by a team of researchers led by Ryan C. McKellar from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.
The paper, entitled A Direct Association Between Amber and Dinosaur Demains Provides Paleoecological Insights , explains how the “remarkable” two-for-one fossil was preserved in a highly improbable chain of coincidences.
The scientists believe that after the hadrosaur died, and started to decompose, it fell into a river.
At around the same time, a blob of sticky resin from either a redwood or similar tree also fell into the water.
An unlucky aphid was stuck in the resin and was mashed into the dinosaur’s jawbone as the current drove all three components of the one-in-a-billion fossil into a drift of sediment.
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The fossil was then buried in the sediment where it remained for tens of millions of years, as over time the resin hardened into amber.
The fossil has given researchers valuable new information about hadrosaurs’ diet and lifestyle.
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The team is optimistic that similar finds could one day yield an even deeper insight into the extraordinary animals that may have died out over 65 million years ago, but continue to fascinate us today.
They note: “In addition to providing paleoecological information, future finds of bonebed amber may provide insights that are not available from skeletal remains alone, and they certainly warrant attention during the excavation and preparation processes.”
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