Amber’s ability to preserve ancient organisms is a boon to scientists. It allows insects trapped in tree sap millions of years ago to be studied by contemporary entomologists. But amber comes with a cost. Much of the world’s amber supply is mined in dangerous conditions in Burma. Furthermore, profits from the amber trade are used to finance conflict in the region. While this bothers some scientists, others point out that the overwhelming majority of amber is used not by them, but for jewelry and industrial purposes. Current international agreements, such as the Nagoya Protocol, don’t apply to the amber trade.

Key Takeaways:

  • Amber has a low probability of reaching laboratories due to needing a recognizable insect present
  • Amber is found worldwide and fulfills the need to sample from many different locations
  • Citizens of areas with amber mines risk domestic conflict due to the shortage of amber and political differences

“”Studying fossils in amber after studying fossils in rock is like switching from grainy black-and-white television to high-definition movies.””

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