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In Lebanon, the 'Amber Man' digs up golden time capsules from the age of the dinosaurs

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the work of paleontologist Dany Azar, who has discovered a treasure trove of ancient amber in Lebanon, providing a window into the early Cretaceous period when flowering plants were taking over the Earth's ecosystems.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Discovering Amber in Lebanon

1. What makes the amber found in Lebanon so special?

  • The amber found in Lebanon chronicles the dawn of the age of flowering plants, a critical moment in Earth's evolutionary history when the world was transitioning from domination by ferns and conifers to domination by flowering plants.
  • Lebanon is one of the few places where it's possible to study this important evolutionary shift, as the amber contains well-preserved fossils and inclusions from the early Cretaceous period.

2. How has Dany Azar's work expanded our understanding of this period?

  • Azar has discovered over 450 amber outcrops in Lebanon, far more than the single outcrop previously known to researchers.
  • His discoveries have allowed him to reconstruct the dramatic changes happening on Earth during the early Cretaceous, including the rise of flowering plants and the evolution of insects like mosquitoes.
  • Azar has found numerous important fossils in the amber, including the oldest mosquito ever discovered, which provides insights into how mosquito feeding habits changed with the arrival of flowers.

[02] Challenges Preserving Lebanon's Paleontological Treasures

1. What challenges does Azar face in protecting and preserving the amber sites in Lebanon?

  • Despite the significance of the amber deposits, Azar struggles to get the Lebanese government and public to appreciate and protect these paleontological treasures.
  • Construction projects have been built on top of some of the amber outcrops he has discovered, with minimal enforcement of zoning regulations to preserve the sites.
  • The ongoing conflicts and instability in Lebanon have also made it dangerous for Azar to collect samples in certain regions of the country.
  • Azar laments that while places like China and Europe would likely establish museums to showcase such important fossil finds, Lebanon has not provided the support or resources to properly preserve and study the amber.

2. How has the lack of preservation efforts impacted Azar's work?

  • Azar has had to move to China to live most of the year, away from his family in Lebanon, due to the country's financial crisis.
  • The dangerous conditions in parts of Lebanon have prevented Azar from collecting amber samples from certain regions.
  • Overall, Azar feels that these paleontological riches are being squandered in a country plagued by "troubles" and a lack of appreciation for their scientific and historical significance.
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