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Why is amber so good at preserving life? © Getty Images

Why is amber so good at preserving life?

Published: 06th July, 2021 at 18:00

A chemist explains the science that underpins the Jurassic Park saga.

You could say that amber preserves death. Amber is essentially fossilised tree resin – certain trees exude sticky, antiseptic resin to protect their bark from bacteria and fungi. As it leaks out of the tree, the resin can also trap any unfortunate creature in its path, preventing decay with its antiseptic nature and a lack of water.

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In a similar process to the reactions used to form plastics, the resin hardens when some of its organic molecules bond together to create bigger ones. This hardened resin, what we call amber, can survive intact for hundreds of millions of years.

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Asked by: Adam King, Huddersfield

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Authors

Dr Emma Davies is a science writer and editor with a PhD in food chemistry from the University of Leeds. She writes about all aspects of chemistry, from food and the environment to toxicology and regulatory science.

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