Abstract

Amber (fossil resin) is not common throughout the fossil record, and previously the only globally significant deposits were thought to occur during the Cretaceous, Eocene, Oligocene and Miocene periods. Recent finds of Late Triassic (Carnian) ambers highlight a significantly older set of deposits. Here we review these ambers that appear coincident with the Carnian Pluvial Episode, a time interval of major climate change and biotic turnover. Much of the amber is found in a palaeolatitudinal belt between 5° and 30° N, and covers Italian, Austrian, Swiss, Hungarian, Spanish and Arizona (USA) deposits, with one exception from Lesotho, Southern Africa (c. 40° S). Most deposits are small and allochthonous, with the major exception of the autochthonous–parautochthonous amber deposit found as droplets in a palaeosol from the Dolomites (Italy). In some of these deposits there is even direct evidence of the source plants that produced the preserved resin. The oldest confirmed organisms found preserved in amber are from Carnian droplets from the Dolomites in Italy and include arthropods and microorganisms. The occurrence of amber in different localities and within the same time interval suggests a widespread stressed flora, and major biological turnover in the terrestrial ecosystems during the Carnian Pluvial Episode.

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