The key to understanding dinosaur ecology may lie in fossilized amber.
Ryan McKellar, a research scientist at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, studies the amber pieces buried alongside dinosaur skeletons. He uses the fossilized tree resin to draw conclusions about the dinosaurs' habitat. At this week's annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, McKellar presented his recent findings, based on deposits from four bonebeds that date to the Late Cretaceous period.
"Basically, it puts a backdrop to these dinosaur digs, it tells us a bit about the habitat," McKellar told Phys.org. "Just a few of these little pieces among the bones can show a lot of information." McKellar said that friable amber, the type of fragile amber he's studying, "hasn't been pursued in the past."
Phys.org adds that the amber could "close the gaps in knowledge about the ecology of the dinosaurs" by providing information about the plants and atmosphere in the dinosaurs' habitats. When insects are fossilized into the amber, scientists can also track the insects' evolution, which allows them to study the insects' interactions with the dinosaurs.