Drumheller-raised An­nie Quinney shares re­search on what am­ber can tell us about an­cient life

The Drumheller Mail - - DRUMHELLERWORKS.COM - Sub­mit­ted The Drumheller Mail sub­mit­ted

The April 14 ses­sion of the 2016 Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum Speaker Se­ries is a pre­sen­ta­tion by for­mer Drumheller res­i­dent Dr. An­nie Quinney, Postdoc­toral Fel­low at the Arc­tic In­sti­tute of North Amer­ica at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, en­ti­tled “The Am­ber Trap – Un­lock­ing Sto­ries of An­cient Po­lar Cli­mates from Fos­silized Tree Resin.”

In this talk, Dr. Quinney presents re­search on the re­cent dis­cov­ery of 90 mil­lion-year-old fos­sil tree resin off the coast of Vic­to­ria, Aus­tralia, which rep­re­sents both the old­est am­ber from Aus­tralia and the south­ern-most oc­cur­rence of am­ber in Gond­wana.

Dur­ing the Cre­ta­ceous, Aus­tralia was lo­cated fur­ther south than its cur­rent lo­ca­tion, putting Vic­to­ria within the Antarc­tic Cir­cle. Although lit­tle is known about the di­ver­sity of life at high south­ern lat­i­tudes dur­ing the Cre­ta­ceous, the preser­va­tion of am­ber sug­gests that a thriv­ing for­est was present within the Antarc­tic Cir­cle at this time.

At first glance, the am­ber ap­pears to preserve, en­tombed within it, plen­ti­ful ev­i­dence of life: many am­ber pieces are full of in­clu­sions that re­sem­ble micro­organ­isms. How­ever, although some of th­ese in­clu­sions are bi­o­log­i­cal, many are non-bi­o­log­i­cal struc­tures mas­querad­ing as fos­sils.

De­spite dif­fi­cul­ties dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing be­tween true fos­sils and fos­sil look-alikes, the range of in­clu­sions in a piece of am­ber may tell us where on a tree the resin came from.

Am­ber pieces dat­ing back to the same age as the Aus­tralian am­ber were also found in north­ern Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia. Geo­chem­i­cal anal­y­ses re- veal that the Aus­tralian and Cana­dian am­bers not only came from the same group of trees, but formed un­der sim­i­lar en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions. Com­par­isons with lowlat­i­tude am­bers sug­gest that strong sea­sonal dif­fer­ences in day­light near the poles af­fected resin pro­duc­tion.

The Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum’s Speaker Se­ries talks are free and open to the pub­lic. The se­ries is held ev­ery Thurs­day un­til April 28, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. in the Mu­seum au­di­to­rium. Past pre­sen­ta­tions are also avail­able on the Mu­seum’s YouTube chan­nel: youtube.com/user/Roy­alTyrrel­lMu­seum. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit tyrrell­mu­seum. com.

Drumh­ller’s An­nie Quinney fea­tured pre­sen­ter at this week’s Speaker Se­ries.

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