A Squid-Like Mollusk Showed Up in Ancient Amber, and No One Knows How

Amber comes from the fossilization of tree resin. So what gives?

Baltic Amber
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Scientists have found an extinct squid ancestor in a 100-million-year-old, 3-centimeter-long piece of Burmese amber. The ammonite (a marine mollusk) was the last thing researchers expected to uncover, as it's the first ammonite, let alone one of very few marine-dwelling animals, .

The relic surfaced when a Chinese collector purchased the item from a seller who touted the fossil as a land snail.

An ammonite, marine gastropods, mites, spiders, millipedes, a cockroach, and other marine and terrestrial life, preserved in Burmese amber for nearly 99 million years. Research published this week in PNAS:

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Amber comes from the fossilization of plant resins found on land, so finding marine creatures in it is super rare. There are only a few ways the ammonite would have been able to find its way into the amber.

"It is most likely that the resin fell to the beach from coastal trees, picking up terrestrial arthropods and beach shells and, exceptionally, surviving the high-energy beach environment to be preserved as amber," the .

Burmese amber is known for holding an incredibly diverse array of creatures, like 99-million-year-old ants and other insects, so it makes sense that the ammonite was found in Myanmar. The gastropods in the amber weren't wholly preserved, which means they were already dead when they became trapped in the resin.

Both terrestrial and marine arthropods, including mites, spiders, millipedes, beetles, and wasps, were found in this amber, which dates back to the mid-Cretaceous era.

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