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 Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact
20.11.2017 | Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

nachricht Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar
20.11.2017 | University of Edinburgh

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond

21.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>