First Ever Salamander Encased in Amber Found in Caribbean

Scientists recently discovered a world first in the Caribbean: a salamander entombed in amber.

The never-seen-before species of salamander - Palaeoplethodon hispaniolae - is now extinct but proves that they used to live on a island in the Caribbean. 

No salamanders have ever been found in the region before.

More than 20 million years ago, the unlucky amphibian got its leg bitten off by a predator before falling into the sticky tree resin resulting in it being fossilised in amber.

Found in an amber mine in what is now the Dominican Republic, the salamander was only a baby when it met its sticky end.

As the creatures have soft, fragile bodies, very few have ever been fossilised.

While no salamanders remain in the Caribbean, Professor George Poinar Jr. from Oregon State University admits that the circumstances surrounding their extinction remains puzzling.

“The discovery of this fossil shows there once were salamanders in the Caribbean, but it’s still a mystery why they all went extinct,” Poinar said. “They may have been killed by some climatic event, or were vulnerable to some type of predator.”

Poinar is part of a team from Oregon State University and the University of California at Berkley who detailed the find in the journal Palaeodiversity.

The findings will help ecologists and geologists to reconstruct ancient events of the Earth’s history.

“There have been fossils of rhinoceroses found in Jamaica, jaguars in the Dominican Republic, and the tree that produced the Dominican amber fossils is most closely related to one that’s native to East Africa,” Poinar said. “All of these findings help us reconstruct biological and geological aspects of ancient ecosystems.”

(Image credit: Oregon State University/George Poinar Jr)