Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Petrified velvet worms from 425 million years ago reveal ecology of the distant past

27.11.2007
University of Leicester Geologist Dr Mark Purnell, with Canadian colleagues, reported, in the journal Geology, a new, exceptionally preserved deposit of fossils in 425 million year old Silurian rocks in Ontario.

The fossils include complete fish (only the second place on earth where whole fish of this age have been found), various shrimp and worm like creatures, including velvet-worms, which look (in Dr Purnell’s words) “rather like a dozen headless Michelin men dancing a conga”.

The velvet worms were deflated slightly by a little early rotting, but within days of dying these animals had been transformed to the mineral calcium phosphate. This preserved them as beautiful petrified fossils, showing the wonderful detail of their bodies, including coloured stripes.

This Canadian deposit is unusual even for sites of exceptional preservation because it also includes normal shelly fossils. From this it is possible to be sure that the conditions in which all the animals were living were not much different to normal nearshore seas of the Silurian period.

Dr Purnell commented: “It provides us with our best view of what lived together in such environments 425 million years ago, and our best information for understanding how life on earth at that time was different to today.

“If people think of a fossil, they will undoubtedly be thinking of something with a hard skeleton or shell of some sort, and it is true that the vast majority of fossil are what in today’s world we call sea shells. But imagine trying to understand the biodiversity and ecology of a submarine seaside ecosystem with only the remains of sea shells to go on.

“All the variety of worms that crawl over and into the sand would be unknown, as would all the shrimpy things that scurry over the surface. We would have only a very partial view of the real biological picture.

“This is what palaeontologists are faced with when they try to reconstruct the history and past ecology of life on Earth, because everything without a shell very quickly, within hours or days, rots away to nothing, leaving no trace that it ever existed.”

Fortunately, there are a few special rock deposits scattered around the world that preserve fossilised traces of those things that normally rot away. These are known to palaeontologists as sites of exceptional preservation, but they are, Dr Purnell says, tricky to interpret precisely because they are exceptional.

“They require very unusual environmental conditions in order to slow down the decomposition of soft tissues, such as muscle and skin, and rapidly transform them into geologically stable minerals that will survive as fossils for millions of years.

“The difficulty for geologists has been that if the conditions are exceptionally unusual, is that also true of the preserved fauna or is it a more typical example? That is something our latest find has helped resolve.”

Ather Mirza | alfa
Further information:
http://www.le.ac.uk/press/experts/intro.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

nachricht Modeling magma to find copper
13.01.2017 | Université de Genève

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

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...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

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...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

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...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How gut bacteria can make us ill

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

On track to heal leukaemia

18.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>