Physico-chemical analysis of Albian (Lower Cretaceous) amber from San Just (Spain): implications for palaeoenvironmental and palaeoecological studies


  • J. DAL CORSO Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova. Via Gradenigo 6, 35131, Padova, Italy.
  • G. ROGHI Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse (IGG-CNR). Via Gradenigo 6, 35131, Padova, Italy.
  • E. RAGAZZI Dipartimento di Scienze del Farmaco, Università degli Studi di Padova. L.go Meneghetti 2, 35131, Padova, Italy.
  • I. ANGELINI Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova. Via Gradenigo 6, 35131, Padova, Italy.
  • A. GIARETTA Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse (IGG-CNR). Via Gradenigo 6, 35131, Padova, Italy.
  • C. SORIANO European Synchrotron Radiation Facilities (ESRF). Rue Jules Horowitz, 6, 38000, Grenoble, France.
  • Xavier Declós Department d’Estratigrafia, Paleontologia i Geociències Marines, Facultat de Geologia, Universitat de Barcelona. C/ Martí i Franquès s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.
  • H.C. JENKYNS Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford. South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK.



Amber, C-isotopes, Thermogravimetric analyses, Infra-red spectroscopy, Cretaceous.


Amber from a Lower Cretaceous outcrop at San Just, located in the Eastern Iberian Peninsula (Escucha Formation, Maestrat Basin), was investigated to evaluate its physico-chemical properties. Thermogravimetric (TG) and Differential Thermogravimetric (DTG) analyses, infra-red spectroscopy, elemental and C-isotope analyses were performed. Physico-chemical differences between the internal light nuclei and the peripheral darker portions of San Just amber can be attributed to processes of diagenetic alteration that preferentially took place in the external amber border colonized by microorganisms (fungi or bacteria) when the resin was still liquid or slightly polymerized. δ13Camber values of different pieces of the same sample, from the nucleus to the external part, are remarkably homogeneous, as are δ13Camber values of the darker peripheral portions and lighter inner parts of the same samples. Hence, neither invasive microorganisms, nor diagenetic alteration, changed the bulk isotopic composition of the amber. δ13C values of different amber samples range from -21.1‰ to -24‰, as expected for C3 plant-derived material. C-isotope analysis, coupled to palaeobotanical, TG and DTG data and infra-red spectra, suggests that San Just amber was exuded by only one conifer species, belonging to either the Cheirolepidiaceae or Aracauriaceae, coniferous families probably living under stable palaeoenvironmental and palaeoecological conditions.


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