Hugh Paxton’s Blog Update: Sadly, Luanne Faulknall, Earth Sciences Identification Officer for Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity (AMC)
Natural History Museum, told us that she believes it is a synthetic resin used in mine-workings. Sorry!
In case you’ve been following the series of posts about what I hope is British amber, here is an update. We contacted Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum and their Geologist, Steve Hewitt has forwarded images of the find to Dr. Penney at The University of Manchester. Dr. David Penney is coauthor (with Dr. David Green) of a series of fascinating articles on fossils in amber in Deposits Magazine this year (Issues 26 & 27). These back issues are available as digital versions or as physical magazines and I recommend them unreservedly for anybody interested in fossils in amber. They are packed with useful information, including guidance on how to photograph inclusions in amber and methods to help people ascertain whether a specimen is genuine or synthetic. Furthermore a larger body of their work is available as a book Fossils in Amber: Remarkable snapshots of prehistoric forest life by David Penney & David Green, published by Siri Scientific Press (specialists in fossil books) which covers all the arthropod orders likely to be found in amber. Their images of the fossil inclusions capture the anatomical detail of the creatures with exquisite clarity, revealing structures that yield insights into the lifestyles of the organisms and their paleoecology, and furthermore show unique glimpses of behaviours such as predation, mating and egg-laying frozen in time. I was particularly touched by an image of a pair of insects, doomed lovers, clasped forever in their final loving embrace, preserved for all time by a golden flow that predates human civilization. Amber is like a time-machine, a golden window into the past.
Yesterday there was an interesting development, Luanne Faulknall, Earth Sciences Identification Officer at the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity (AMC) Natural History Museum, kindly asked us to send the suspected amber to her for inspection. She says that it looks interesting, but needs hands-on inspection and introduced a word of caution that plastics and resins are sometimes used in coal mining and that the Natural History Museum had been sent anachronistic items from coal in the past.
As a child I once proudly brought in to the Natural History Museum what I felt sure was a dinosaur’s tooth, only to learn that it was the fairly recently shed claw of a crab. Once pointed out, I recognised the serrations on the inner curvature. Disappointing, but that is why we need expert eyes to view finds.
On the subject of expert eyes, you may be interested to read that the Centre has a Nature Plus website with Identification Forums and Blog for discussions on natural history specimens. I include the links below because I know that they’ll be of broad interest to fossil enthusiasts! It’s fascinating to see what others have found (vicarious fossil hunting) and to see the identification.
Nature Plus Forums: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/community/identification