Welcome to the research pages of

Dr David Penney


Dr David Penney University of Manchester

I have had a life-long fascination with all things creepy crawly and still vividly remember exactly how this came about. My qualifications include a BSc in Zoology, a doctorate (PhD) and higher doctorate (DSc) in amber palaeobiology. I am an Honorary Lecturer in the Faculty of Life Sciences (Preziosi Lab) at the University of Manchester, UK. My expertise stems from more than two decades of research mainly in amber palaeobiology and fossil and extant spiders. I am a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a Fellow of the Linnean Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, a Chartered Scientist, a corresponding member of the Arbeitskreis Bernstein (Amber Council), Hamburg, Germany and am a Patron of UKAFH. I am available for school education visits and also run the book publishing company Siri Scientific Press.

30th European Congress of Arachnology
August 2017, Nottingham
(Organizing Committee, Abstracts book editor)



Reviews (click the cover to find out more and order a copy)
(Everything Dinosaur blog): "This is a must have for anyone seriously contemplating working in palaeontology.  It also makes a great gift for anyone who is considering aspiring to be amongst the next generation of palaeontologists, or indeed for the enthusiastic fossil collector who would like to become more involved with this fascinating area of science. This publication provides an insider’s view on the exciting and diverse career opportunities available to students who want to develop their interest in palaeontology into a full-time occupation.  It really is required reading for any teacher or educationalist wishing to assist aspiring palaeontologists."

Reviews (click the cover to find out more and order a copy)
Entomologie heute (November, 2016): “… the author, a renowned zoologist, arachnologist and authority on amber fossils, gives an overview on recent advances and developments in amber palaeobiology. Further, he develops ideas on future amber research and what might be very promising. He deals with old and new amber deposits, the latter for instance in China (“Palaeodiversity & New Amber Deposits”), with “Microbes in Amber” and then he focuses on “New Imaging Techniques”, ranging from photomicroscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy, computed tomography, and synchrotron imaging (illustrated with impressive examples that provide evidence of the efficiency of the implemented technology), touches problems of “Palaeotaxonomy”, discusses “Palaeoecology”, “Palaeo/Biogeography“ and finally “Subfossils in Copal”. The book ends with a rather extensive reference list. In brief, this is a very nice and informative source.”

7th International Conference on Fossil Insects, Arthropods & Amber
April/May 2016, Edinburgh
(Keynote Lecture, Abstracts book editor)


Video clip of our computed tomography research on a 50 million-year-old huntsman spider in Baltic amber (published in Naturwissenschaften)

Much of my research over the past few years has employed the use of computed tomographic techniques to the study of fossil arthropods preserved in various different ambers from around the world. An example of our remarkable results is shown above.

Trigonisca ameliae (Apidae: Meliponini) in Colombian copal, described in 2013 and named after my daughter Amelia

Recently we demonstrated that DNA is highly unlikely to be preserved in amber, given that we were unable to recover any from stingless bees preserved in copal (the very young precursor of amber), despite using extremely powerful Next Generation Sequencing techniques.