An incredible natural phenomenon occurs when insects and even animals can become entombed and frozen forever in tree sap that eventually becomes amber.
An example of this is the small praying mantis in a piece of amber was sold through Heritage Auctions for $6,000 in 2016 and was found in the Dominican Republic. It was estimated that it dates back to the Oligocene period, so it is between 23 million and 33.9 million years old.
Nowadays, there are about 2,400 known species of mantises, and most of them can be found in tropical climates. However, the earliest of the praying mantis’ fossils dates back to 135 million years ago, and they come from Siberia.
All members of the family Mantidae are known as mantids, while the word ‘Praying Mantis’ refers to any species of the family Mantidae, regardless of its origin, and if it’s a Brazilian mantis or a Chinese mantis.
It is one of the rarest specimens that can be found, and in most cases, these ferocious insects are usually distorted or lacking limbs due to their fearful struggle to escape the inexorable ooze.
Yet, this one was preserved to perfection, right down to the color patterns on its slender legs, fine arm spikes, delicate antennae, and big compound eyes. A mantis has two big eyes, used for seeing movement and having depth vision, and three smaller eyes located on the middle of their head, used for detecting light.
The resin comes from the extinct tree Hymenaea protera, which is the source of Dominican amber and probably of most amber found in tropical countries. It was a ½ inch long, encased in a beautiful polished golden nugget measuring 1¾ x 1¼ x 1 inches.
It also had three large and perfectly preserved click beetles, that make it an extraordinary museum-quality specimen. As we mentioned, animals can also be preserved in this way, and last year, researchers found a baby snake on amber, 99 million years old.
Michael Caldwell, a professor in the biological sciences department at the University of Alberta in Canada, and his team named the specimen Xiaophis myanmarensis.
Amber acts as super glue, and catches everything it touches, preserving it for million years. When this baby snake was caught, it also collected the forest floor with the bugs, plants and bug poop.
Caldwell said that the snake had unique features of the top of the vertebrae that have never been seen before in other fossil snakes. It belongs to the base of the snake family tree, and to an ancient group of snakes.