In a paper published in the latest issue of the Zootaxa journal, Dr David Penney and co-authors from Ghent University in Belgium report on the use of a technique called ‘Very High Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography’ (VHR-CT) to ‘digitally dissect’ tiny fossils and reveal the preservation of internal organs.
Dr Penney, from The School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (SEAES), specialises in studying spiders trapped and preserved in amber tens of millions of years ago.
The male spider studied in his latest paper is a new species named Cenotextricella simoni. It is around 53-million years old and was found preserved in amber in an area of France known as the Paris Basin.
This is the first time the VHR-CT technique has been used to digitally dissect a fossil in amber – and Dr Penney says it has the potential to ‘revolutionise’ their study.
The VHR-CT technique was originally developed for medical diagnostic purposes.
Dr Penney said: “This technique essentially generates full 3D reconstructions of minute fossils and permits digital dissection of the specimen to reveal the preservation of internal organs.
“Up until recently the only place to do such scans was at The University of Texas, although they never achieved results like these.
“My colleagues in the department of Subatomic and Radiation Physics at Ghent University in Belgium have significantly increased the resolution of the technology, bringing some quite amazing results.
“This is definitely the way forward for the study of amber fossils.
“Amber provides a unique window into past forest ecosystems. It retains an incredible amount of information, not just about the spiders themselves, but also about the environment in which they lived.”
Dr Penney is currently spending an indefinite period in the African jungle in a ‘living laboratory' studying spiders.
Earlier this year, a species of spider which dates back more than 20 million years was named after Dr Penney. The amber-encased spider which was discovered deep in a Mexican mine is thought to have lived long before the first humans.
It was found by a Mexican researcher who earned the right to name the species and he chose the name ‘Episinus penneyi’ in honour of his former colleague.
Jon Keighren | alfa
Live from the ocean research vessel Atlantis
13.12.2018 | National Science Foundation
NSF-supported scientists present new research results on Earth's critical zone
13.12.2018 | National Science Foundation
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
13.12.2018 | Life Sciences
13.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
13.12.2018 | Earth Sciences