amberica west


Field Guide For Insects:
Identification in Dominican Amber


The amber that you are looking at started out as resin 20 to 30 million years ago from an extinct tree called Hymenaea Protea tree. This tree made large amounts of resin which over millions of years turned into amber. The amber is fairly stable because the complex chemicals inside have polymerized (all the molecules are "holding hands" all over the place.) This is akin to thickening up gravy for your turkey diner, only more so!

The resin when it seeped from the tree was aromatic (it smelled) - possibly like pine pitch does today. For this reason insects were attracted to it. The resin acted exactly the way fly paper does. It trapped the insects and often imbedded them in new resin flows. Larger animals, such as lizards or even larger were usually strong enough to break free of the sticky resin and were not covered with new resin flows. Although sometimes this did not happen since occasionally small lizards are found in amber. Needless to say, this is a very rare occurrence and any vertebrate in amber is very valuable and extremely expensive.

This field guide is intended to help you identify some of the more common insects in amber. It is not intended as a scientific guide, just one that may help the average enthusiast identify some animals. Here are some of the more common insects in Dominican amber.

If you have access to a microscope, that will help a lot. If not, a good magnifier will do just fine.

To use this guide, just click on the pictures below: