A groundbreaking new study, published in the journal Science Advances in 2009 revealed an incredible find to the world: A set of small lizards, trapped in Burmese amber. The discovery was described by a team comprising Edward Leo Stanley, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and renowned amber expert and curator in the division of invertebrate zoology David Grimaldi from the American Museum of Natural History. The fossils dated back to the mid-Cretaceous, around 99 million years ago, to the twilight years of the dinosaurs. While no dinosaurs have been discovered in Myanmar’s rocks, there have been other surprises here.
These rocks are the well-known amber deposits in the famed Hukawng Valley. They reveal impressive remains of a large Cretaceous forest that existed during this time. Amber, or fossilized tree resin, has always been an excellent preservative. Petrified insect remains are known from amber deposits but sometimes even larger forest creatures can get stuck in the viscous liquid.
The Hukawng Valley finds consist of mostly lizard remains. The lizard remains are so well preserved that they show not just bones but also skin, scales and other soft tissues Had the lizards fallen to the forest floor, they would not have been fossilized very well. The tiny bones would have broken up and their little bodies would have decomposed in the tropical heat. Tropical forests in general are not good for the preservation of fossils.