Research project: Cape York Amber fauna - insect inclusions and origins


Start date:

Museum investigators

  • Dr Dan Bickel , Research Scientist

External investigators

  • Sue Hand, University of New South Wales
  • Mike Archer, University of New South Wales
  • Mary Dettman, Queensland Museum

Funded by

  • ARC


Many trees secrete a sticky resin from broken limbs or bark to protect against attack by boring insects. As the resin oozes out, it drips down the trunks, often engulfing small insects and plant debris. If the resin is buried and fossilized, it is transformed into amber, a clear, lightweight substance with a variety of colours and hues.  Insects, pollen, fragments of blossoms, and even feathers or plant hairs are preserved down to the finest detail.

I am co-Principal investigator (along with Sue Hand and Mike Archer of the University of New South Wales, and Mary Dettmann of the Queensland Museum) on a 3 year ARC Discovery Grant (total $245,000) to investigate the inclusions and source of amber washed up on the beaches of northern Cape York Peninsula.

Cape York Amber is the first major amber deposit known in Australia, and was almost certainly derived from kauri resin (genus Agathis, trees that still grow in eastern Australian rainforests). This amber is thought to be of Miocene age, some 5-20 million years old.  The examination of the insect and plant inclusions in the amber will provide a window to Australia's past environments. I will be studying the invertebrates (some 250 found so far) trapped as inclusions in the amber. 

Dr Dan Bickel , Research Scientist
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