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Scientists in France studying a local deposit of 55 million-year-old amber have unexpectedly isolated a natural product never seen before. Akino Jossang and colleagues suggest the compound’s precursor came from an ancient tree related to a species now found only in the Amazon rainforest – indicating Paris once enjoyed a rather more tropical climate than it does today.
The team, from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, were trying to trace the source of the tree resin that fossilised to form the amber – discovered in the Oise river area of the Paris basin in 1997. As part of these studies, Jossang powdered some of the amber and extracted it with solvent – isolating the new compound, which the team has named ‘quesnoin’.
‘It is very difficult to isolate pure known compounds in amber, so to discover a new structure was unexpected and exceptional,’ Jossang told Chemistry World.