In "Jurassic Park", amber fossils provided the key to bringing dinosaurs back to life. Scientists in the movie extracted dinosaur blood from mosquitoes preserved for millions of years in amber - hardened tree resin - and used the blood's DNA to revive the creatures that terrified audiences around the globe. In this book, George and Roberta Poinar use amber for a similar act of revival - only they bring back an entire ecosystem. The Poinars have spent years examining the uniquely rich supply that has survived from the ancient forests of the Dominican Republic. They draw on their research here to reconstruct in words, drawings and colour photographs the ecosystem that existed on the island of Hispaniola between 15 and 45 million years ago. Samples analyzed and illustrated include a wide range of insects and plants - many now extinct - as well as such vertebrates as frogs, lizards, birds and small mammals. By examining these plants and animals and comparing them to related forms that exist today, the authors seek to shed light on the behaviour of these organisms as well as the environment and climate in which they lived and died.
Table of Contents
Preface i Acknowledgments xi Prologue xiii 1. Introduction 3 From Where and Whence 3 Why Select Amber for Study? 8 How Biased Are Amber Samples? 9 Structure of Tropical Forests 11 2. The Amber Forest 13 The Plants 13 Plant-Feeding Insects 46 Aquatic Biota 87 Social Insects 97 Predators 129 Parasites and parasitoids 133 Vertebrates 153 3. Reconstruction of the Amber Forest169 General Conclusions 188 4. Amber Today 189 Handling, Photographing, and Preserving Amber 189 Amber Imitations and Forgeries 191 Tissue Preservation and Ancient DNA in Amber 193 Appendix A. Frequency of Organisms in Dominican Amber 197 Appendix B. Biota. in Dominican Amber 199 Chapter References 215 Index 229
Runner-up for AAP/Professional and Scholarly Publishing Awards: Biological Science 1999.
George Poinar, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently on the faculty at Oregon State University, where he conducts research on amber deposits and biological inclusions in amber. He has written several books on amber, including, with Roberta Poinar. The Quest for Life in Amber. Roberta Poinar is an electron microscopist with experience in entomology and amber research. She and George Poinar led the international research effort to extract DNA from insects encased in amber.