Paleontologists Discovered a Salamander Trapped in Amber

Oregon State University via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Oregon State University via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0 / Oregon State University via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Anyone who’s slightly familiar with paleontology (read: has watched Jurassic Park) knows that the things getting stuck in sap millions of years ago were usually bug-sized. That’s why paleontologists were shocked to discover a whole salamander preserved in amber during an excavation in the Caribbean.

The creature appears to have lost a leg to a predator before it stumbled into the gooey resin more than 20 million years ago. Little else can be guessed about it, partly because salamanders previously hadn’t been known to exist in the Caribbean at any point in history. 

Very few salamander fossils have ever been discovered, and this is the first to be found fossilized in amber. The discovery was made in an amber mine in the northern mountain range of the Dominican Republic. Scientists have dubbed the species Palaeoplethodon hispaniolae, a member of the Plethodontidae family more commonly found 1,400 miles north in the Appalachian Mountains. 

Experts suspect that the species first reached the island by crossing a land bridge while sea levels were low, or even by sailing in on a log like pint-sized pirates. And while we're not entirely certain how they met their demise, it looks like they weren’t very good at avoiding slow-moving goop.  

[h/t: io9]