However, the paleontologists Malvina Lak, her colleagues from the University of Rennes and the ESRF paleontologist Paul Tafforeau, together with the National Museum of Natural History of Paris, have applied to opaque amber a synchrotron X-ray imaging technique known as propagation phase contrast microradiography. It sheds light on the interior of this dark amber, which resembles a stone to the human eye. “Researchers have tried to study this kind of amber for many years with little or no success. This is the first time that we can actually discover and study the fossils it contains”, says Paul Tafforeau.
The scientists imaged 640 pieces of amber from the Charentes region in southwestern France. They discovered 356 fossil animals, going from wasps and flies, to ants or even spiders and acarians. The team was able to identify the family of 53% of the inclusions.
Most of the organisms discovered are tiny. For example, one of the discovered acarians measures 0.8 mm and a fossil wasp is only 4 mm. “The small size of the organisms is probably due to the fact that bigger animals would be able to escape from the resin before getting stuck, whereas little ones would be captured more easily”, explains Malvina Lak.
Water to see tiny fossils better
The surface features of amber pieces, like cracks, stand out more in the images than the fossil organisms in the interior when using synchrotron radiation. In order to solve this problem, scientists soaked the amber pieces in water before the experiment. Because water and amber have very similar densities, immersion made the outlines of the amber pieces and the cracks almost invisible. At the same time, it increased overall inclusion visibility, leading to better detection and characterization of the fossils.
Classification of species
Once discovered on the radiographs, some of the organisms were imaged in three dimensions and virtually extracted from the resin. The high quality of these 3D reconstructions enables paleontologists to precisely study and describe the organisms. The success of this experiment shows the high value of the ESRF for the study of fossils. “Opaque amber hosts many aspects of past life on our planet that are still unknown, and the use of third generation synchrotron sources will continue to play an important role in unveiling them”, asserts Malvina Lak.
M. Lak, D. Néraudeau, A. Nel, P. Cloetens, V. Perrichot and P. Tafforeau, Phase Contrast X-ray Synchrotron Imaging: Opening Access to Fossil Inclusions in Opaque Amber, Microscopy and Microanalysis, Forthcoming article doi:10.1017/S1431927608080264.
Montserrat Capellas | EurekAlert!
New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences