China Ash Yields Salamander Evolution Secrets

A cataclysmic volcanic eruption 160 million years ago was a dark day for thousands of salamanders scurrying about a series of lakes in northern China. The hot ash smothered and buried the amphibians in their tracks.

For scientists who study salamanders, however, that inundation of hot ash was manna from heaven: It allowed for the exquisite preservation of the salamanders, giving scientists a trove of fossils that are revealing the secrets of evolution.