There are several different processes that lead to fossil formation, but the most common fossils are excavated from sedimentary rock. Sedimentary fossils vary in quality, as some clearly show an ancient specimen’s entire bodily impression while most merely show a fragment of a specimen’s bodily impression. The majority of fossils can only be identified by educated professionals, as most sedimentary fossils are too fragmentary to be recognized as significant by average observers. However, as everyone knows from the Jurassic Park movie series, some fossils are composed of amber. Unlike sedimentary fossils that merely show a bodily impression of an ancient organism, amber fossils contain the physical specimen itself, either in its entirety or as a fragment.

The first stage of amber fossil formation occurs when tree sap covers an organism before hardening over long periods of time. As you can imagine, amber fossils usually contain small organisms that frequented trees. In most cases, these small organisms are ancient insects or arachnids. From a research perspective, amber fossils are regarded as more valuable than sedimentary fossils, since amber fossils allow researchers to observe an ancient organism’s bodily features in detail. While amber fossils are highly valued in the scientific community and elsewhere, researchers recently spotted an even more impressive type of fossil that was not thought to exist until a few days ago.

While visiting Indonesia, gemologist Brian Berger purchased what looked like an iridescent opal containing an insect specimen. But he did not quite believe his eyes, as experts have long considered opal fossils to be fiction. However, the Gemological Institute of America confirmed this lucky purchase as being the first opal fossil on record with the exception of an opalized dinosaur fossil discovered only weeks ago. Researchers are not exactly sure how opals form to contain intact organisms, but some experts believe that the opal started out as a typical amber fossil before becoming opalized within sediment during a stage of extreme heat exposure, most likely volcanic heat. While some researchers are skeptical of the discovery, most feel confident claiming that many more opal fossils are waiting to be found.

Do you believe that more opal fossils containing insects have yet to be discovered?