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.
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.
- How do dinosaur footprints get fossilised?
- What makes hardwood hard and softwood soft?
- Would a corpse decay in space?
- Can wood melt?
Asked by: Adam King, Huddersfield
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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.