Book review: Fossils in Amber: Remarkable snapshots of prehistoric forest life, by David Penney and David Green
Jon Trevelyan (UK)
Here at Deposits, we like our amber and this certainly isn’t the first book on the subject I have reviewed. In fact, over the years, we have published many articles on the fossilised sap and its inclusions, and have just finished publishing a short, two-article series by the authors of this excellent little publication (see ‘Biodiversity of fossils in amber’ in Issue 26; and ‘Preparation and study of fossils in amber’ in Issue 27). We make no apologies – it is a fascinating subject.
However, if you like fossils in amber, you should definitely get this book – but, if you don’t like creepy-crawlies, perhaps you shouldn’t – as it’s the pictures that make it a resounding success. Most of the book consists of colour photographs taken by the authors using the methods and technology explained in their article in Issue 27 and, if you didn’t know otherwise, you would swear the creatures had only just died. And each picture is accompanied by authoritative text providing more than enough information to get a feel for the insects, arachnids and plants, and the scientific information that such fossils have provided, and continue to provide, about the ecosystems and biodiversity of the ancient tropical forests in which they lived.
Indeed, the pictures show that amber preserves not only the animals in death, but also their behaviour just before their capture by the sticky tree resin – mating, hunting, feeding and egg laying, to name but a few.
The book necessarily deals with the science of amber in brief and covers the same issues that the two Davids (one an amber palaeontologist, the other an expert in photomicroscopy) wrote about in our articles, especially the methods of photographing inclusions. Therefore, if you were interested by the articles, you will be blown away by this book, as it displays in the clearest possible way that amber can preserve small animals with a life-like fidelity, including their minute structures. And now that the technology has caught up, the pictures that can be taken display this splendour in wonderful Technicolor.
In short, I certainly recommend this book regardless of whether you read the articles in the last two issues of Deposits. It’s stunning.
Fossils in Amber: Remarkable snapshots of prehistoric forest life, by David Penney and David Green, Siri Scientific Press, Manchester (2011), 215 pages (paperback), 978-0955863660
UKGE Code: BK0033, £35.00, free shipping