There is simply and awesome natural process in which insects and even animals can become perfectly preserved and entombed in tree sap that will eventually convert into amber, keeping them frozen forever. This intriguing phenomenon is highlighted in the timeless movie Jurassic Park, which we all know the story.
In 2016, a $6,000 small praying mantis preserved in amber was sold through the Heritage Auctions. This incredible piece was found somewhere in the Dominican Republic. The Heritage Auctions estimated that the piece was somewhere between 23 and 33.9 million years old and most likely from the Oligocene period.
Other animals have been preserved in similar ways in Amber. In 2017, researchers found a persevered baby snake estimated to be about 99 million years old. The snake specimen was named Xiaophis myanmarensis by Michael Caldwell and his team, Michael being a professor at the biological sciences department at the Universite of Alberta, Canada.
According to the auction description from a similar sale:
“This present specimen boasts one of the rarest and most sought after of all inclusions; the Praying Mantis. When found at all, these ferocious insects are usually distorted or lacking limbs due to their fearful struggle to escape the inexorable ooze. This example, however, is preserved to perfection, right down to the color patterns on its slender legs, fine arm spikes, delicate antennae, and large compound eyes. An incredible snapshot of ancient life, the insect measures approximately ½ inch long encased in a lovely polished golden nugget measuring 1¾ x 1¼ x 1 inches. As an added attraction, the piece also contains three large and perfectly preserved click beetles, making it a superb museum-quality specimen.”
“Even though it is a baby, there are very unique features of the top of the vertebrae that have never been seen before in other fossil snakes of a similar kind. Xiaophis fits into the base of the snake family tree, and into a group of snakes that appear to be very ancient,” Caldwell told LiveScience.
“Amber collects everything it touches — kind of like super glue — and then holds onto it for a hundred million years. When it caught the baby snake, it caught the forest floor with the bugs, plants and bug poop — so that it is clear the snake was living in a forest,” he said.