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African fossiliferous amber: a review

Abstract : Amber has only rarely been found in Africa and the few known occurrences are mostly devoid of organic inclusions. The first fossiliferous African amber was reported a few years ago from Ethiopia, and was considered to be early Late Cretaceous in age (Cenomanian, ~93-95 Ma). However, recent investigation of additional amber material and associated sediment questions the previously assumed age and provides compelling evidence that Ethiopian amber is Cenozoic, likely Miocene. Support for this dating is based on both new and revised palynological and palaeoentomological data. Insect fossils mostly belong to extant families and genera. A particular reference to ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) is made here, with the report of 51 individuals assignable to new extinct species of Dolichoderinae (e.g. Technomyrmex), Formicinae, Myrmicinae (e.g. Melissotarsus, Carebara), Ponerinae and Pseudomyrmecinae (e.g. Tetraponera). Chemical analysis indicates that Ethiopian amber belongs to the Class le ambers typical of Fabaceae (although the earliest record of a Class le amber dates back to the Carboniferous) and was presumably produced by the genus Hymenaea, similar to East African Pleistocene copals and Neotropical Miocene' ambers. Although much younger than previously suggested, fossils in Ethiopian amber remain highly relevant as Miocene insects are exceedingly rare in Africa. The recent discovery of a new deposit offossiliferous amber is also reported here, from the Early Cretaceous (Aptian, 113-117 Ma) of Congo-Brazzaville. Chemically, Congolese amber belongs to the Class Ib typical of conifers, and the family Cheirolepidiaceae is assumed to be the plant source. Amber nodules are dark red in colour, with large pieces reaching up to 12 cm. The search for organismic inclusions using conventional optical techniques is limited by the opacity of the amber, but diverse arthropods and plant remains have already been found in few more translucent pieces. A large survey using synchrotron imaging will be necessary to evaluate the overall biodiversity of Congolese amber, the only fossiliferous amber from the Cretaceous of Africa to date.
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Conference papers
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - 12:58:34 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 5, 2019 - 8:17:46 PM

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  • HAL Id : insu-01310903, version 1

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Vincent Perrichot, Brendon Boudinot, Jim Cole, Vincent Delhaye-Prat, Johanne Esnault, et al.. African fossiliferous amber: a review. 7th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FOSSIL INSECTS, ARTHROPODS AND AMBER, Apr 2016, Edinburgh. ⟨insu-01310903⟩

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