Nav: Home

Unlocking secrets of how fossils form

September 16, 2015

Fossils tell amazing stories and inspire them, too -- just think of this summer's "Jurassic World" blockbuster. But because some of the processes that preserve fossils are not well understood, there's still more information that they could reveal. Now scientists report in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry a new way to probe fossils to find out how these ancient remains formed in greater detail than before.

When most organisms die, they biodegrade and leave little behind. But if they get trapped in sediments that harbor few bacteria and loads of dissolved minerals, they can become fossilized and preserved for millions of years. Scientists use a variety of techniques on the ancient specimens to determine details about lifestyles and diets, as well as information about the geographical distribution of the creatures. One of those methods called scanning electron microscopy, or SEM, showed particular promise for revealing new information about fossils. So Amauri J. Paula and colleagues expanded on this method.

The researchers used a large-field SEM approach to analyze a shrimp fossil from the Araripe Basin, a place in northeastern Brazil known among paleontologists as a treasure trove of flying pterosaur remains. The shrimp specimen dates back to the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs still roamed the planet. The technique provided evidence for the first time that a rare fossilization process occurred in the basin. It also showed that the fossil over millions of years developed a surprising fractal characteristic -- a still-unexplained, repeating pattern most commonly recognized in snowflakes but also found in structures as large as spiral galaxies.
-end-
The authors acknowledge funding from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico of Brazil and the Fundação Cearense de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: TwitterFacebook

American Chemical Society

Related Fossils Articles:

New 'king' of fossils discovered in Australia
Fossils of a giant new species from the long-extinct group of sea creatures called trilobites have been found on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Two tiny beetle fossils offer evolution and biogeography clues
Recently, an international team led by Dr. CAI Chenyang, from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, reported two new and rare species of the extant family Clambidae from Burmese amber: Acalyptomerus thayerae Cai and Lawrence, 2019, and Sphaerothorax uenoi Cai and Lawrence, 2019.
Newly described fossils could help reveal why some dinos got so big
A new, in-depth anatomical description of the best preserved specimens of a car-sized sauropod relative from North America could help paleontologists with unraveling the mystery of why some dinosaurs got so big.
Lilly Pilly fossils reveal snowless Snowy Mountains
Leaf fossils discovered high in Australia's Snowy Mountains have revealed a past history of warmer rainforest vegetation and a lack of snow, in contrast with the alpine vegetation and winter snow-covered slopes of today.
Molecular fossils confirm Dickinsonia as one of Earth's earliest animals
By identifying specific biomarkers preserved alongside fossils of oval-shaped life forms from the Ediacaran Period, fossils from which are typically considered one of the greatest mysteries in paleontology, researchers say the ovular organism is not a fungus or protist, as some have thought, but an early animal.
More Fossils News and Fossils Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...