A description of a 95-million-year-old amber deposit—the first major discovery of its kind from the African continent—is adding new fungus, insects, spiders, nematodes, and even bacteria to an ecosystem that had been shared by dinosaurs. In addition, the amber deposit may provide fresh insights into the rise and diversification of flowering plants during the Cretaceous. The new paper, published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reconstructs an ancient tropical forest uncovered in present-day Ethiopia and is the work of an international team of 20 scientists.
"Until now, we had discovered virtually no Cretaceous amber sites from the southern hemisphere's Gondwanan supercontinent," says author Paul Nascimbene of the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History. "Significant Cretaceous amber deposits had been found primarily in North America and Eurasia."
"The first angiosperms, or flowering plants, appeared and diversified in the Cretaceous," says first author Alexander Schmidt of the University of Göttingen in Germany. "Their rise to dominance drastically changed terrestrial ecosystems, and the Ethiopian amber deposit sheds light on this time of change."