Ancient Amber-Preserved Salamander Species Discovered by Scientists

Scientists found the first amber-preserved salamander ever in the mountains of the Dominican Republic.

The finding is remarkable, not only because of the amber, but because no species of salamander was previously thought to have ever existed in the Caribbean islands. The exciting discovery by University of California at Berkeley and Oregon State University were published in the journal Palaeodiversity.

“There are very few salamander fossils of any type, and no one has ever found a salamander preserved in amber,” said George Poinar Jr., one of the study’s scientists, in a press release.“And finding it in Dominican amber was especially unexpected, because today no salamanders, even living ones, have ever been found in that region.”


Researchers do not yet know what caused the salamander species’ extinction. “They may have been killed by some climatic event, or were vulnerable to some type of predator,” Poinar speculated. As its salamander is missing a leg, researchers believe that the fossil became preserved after escaping from a predator and falling into a deposit of resin that gradually turned into amber.


This fight that resulted in the fossil’s composition is believed to have taken place more than 20 million years ago. The lineage of the species itself, however, may date back to between 40 and 60 million years ago, when what is today known as the Greater Antilles region was still attached to South and North America.


The species of the amber-preserved salamander has been named Palaeonplethodon hispaniolae by the researchers. It is a member of the Plethodontidae family, other species of which are common to North America with a concentration in the Appalachians.

If this is true, then it is possible that because the amber-salamander’s species has only been found in the Caribbean, it remained in the area that became the Caribbean during and after it separated from South and North America. But the Palaeonplethodon hispaniolae has some notable features that distinguish it from the species that can be found in North America today, such as indistinct toes.

Ongoing Salamander stories here, here, here.


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