Amber's colourful secrets

UNSW scientists have confirmed the discovery of Australia's most northerly fossil site - deposits of the precious mineral amber that contain a treasure trove of ancient life.

AmberPieces inside

A study led by UNSW scientists has confirmed the discovery of Australia's most northerly fossil - deposits of the precious mineral amber that contain a treasure trove of trapped animal and plant remains and even bubbles of air from millions of years ago.

The amber was found during a hazardous expedition last September to remote beaches on eastern Cape York, in far north Queensland, where the researchers braved crocodiles and sharks to find the source of amber pieces first seen washed up on nearby beaches in 2003.

The amber itself is of many colours, from greens, reds and yellows to an almost psychedelic blue, says lead investigator Dr Suzanne Hand, of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. Its age is
still uncertain but it has formed over millions of years from what was once
tree resin in ancient rainforests.

"This is a fabulous find," Dr Hand says. "Not only are these are the most significant amounts of amber ever found in Australia but they occur where Australia and New Guinea were once joined by a land bridge and until now we had almost no information about what was living there at the time. Now we can study some of the actual animals."

Read the full story at the Faculty of Science newsroom.

Media contacts: Dr Suzanne Hand | s.hand@unsw.edu.au
UNSW Faculty of Science media liaison - Bob Beale | 0411 705 435 | bbeale@unsw.edu.au