Encore - Praying Mantis in Colombian Copal

February 22, 2020




Today and every Saturday Earth Science Picture of the Day invites you to rediscover favorites from the past. Saturday posts feature an EPOD that was chosen by viewers like you in our monthly Viewers' Choice polls. Join us as we look back at these intriguing and captivating images.

Photographer: Mila Zinkova
Summary Author: Mila Zinkova
May 2014 Viewer's Choice The photo above features a praying mantis encased in a very small piece of Colombian copal. Much smaller insects can also be seen in the same piece of amber. Amber copal is a product of tree resin, but it's typically younger and softer than true amber. How old is Colombian copal? It's not known for sure. Some believe it could be 200 years old, while others think it could be millions of years old. In 2007, the American Museum of Natural History published an article about an extinct stingless orchid bee found in Colombian copal. The authors of the article referred to the bee as a fossil. In 2013, scientists tried to extract DNA from a mantis preserved in Colombian copal. However, they were unable to obtain any convincing evidence for the preservation of ancient DNA and concluded that DNA isn't preserved in this type of material. Their results raise further doubts about extracting DNA from fossil insects in amber, many millions of years older than copal. So according to their study Jurassic Park is extremely improbable if not impossible.

The bottom photo shows the same piece of Colombian copal but with mantis hatchlings aboard. These hatchlings weren't created from the DNA of their long-ago entrapped predecessor but rather hatched in the normal way -- and found in my backyard.