A small praying mantis stands in clear amber, forever stopping time and staring at you. The piece, which measures just over an inch in size, was sold for $6,000 through Heritage Auctions in 2016. A flawless piece of amber from the Dominican Republic offers a rare glimpse of this magnificent praying mantis.
Amber itself comes from the extinct Hymenaea Protera, a prehistoric legume tree. Most amber found in Central and South America is extracted from resin. Amber from the Dominican Republic is called Dominican resin and is characterised by its transparency and a large number of inclusions. Heritage Auctions dates the work to the Oligocene, estimating it to be approximately 23 million to 33.9 million years old.
This is a critical period in which the Paleocene transitions into the more modern ecosystem of the Miocene, which lasted until 5 million years before his birth. Incredibly, the praying mantis itself is not that different from what we see today. There are currently more than 2,400 species of praying mantises, primarily living in tropical climates.
But the oldest praying mantis fossils, dating back 135 million years, were found in a place that is even colder today: Siberia. Some early fossils show praying mantises with spines on their front legs, similar to modern praying mantises. Those who purchase this amber will be able to take home an interesting piece of evolutionary history that will amaze them every day.