Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Remarkable preservation of African fossils explained

Date:
January 21, 2011
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
The mystery of how an abundance of fossils have been marvelously preserved for nearly half a billion years in a remote region of Africa has been solved by a team of geologists.

This is a Eurypterid (sea scorpion) from the Soom Shale, South Africa. This fossil is approximately 440 million years old. It is so well-preserved that you can see its muscle blocks, gills and paddles that it used for swimming.
Credit: University of Leicester

The mystery of how an abundance of fossils have been marvellously preserved for nearly half a billion years in a remote region of Africa has been solved by a team of geologists from the University of Leicester's Department of Geology.

They have established that an ancient wind brought life to the region -- and was then instrumental in the preservation of the dead.

Sarah Gabbott, Jan Zalasiewicz and colleagues investigated a site near the Table Mountains in South Africa. Their findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Geology.

Sarah Gabbott said: "Near Table Mountain in South Africa lies one of the world's most mysterious rock layers. Just a few metres thick, and almost half a billion years old, it contains the petrified remains of bizarre early life-forms, complete with eyes and guts and muscles.

"We investigated why these animals are so marvellously preserved, when most fossils are just fragments of bone and shell? The answer seems to lie in a bitter wind, blowing off a landscape left devastated by a massive ice-cap."

Gabbott and Zalasiewicz added that microscopic analysis of the shale layers using a specially designed 'Petroscope', obtained with funding from the Royal Society, revealed remarkable and so far unique structures -- myriads of silt grains, neatly wrapped in the remains of marine algae.

The authors state: "The silt grains are sedimentary aliens -- much bigger than the marine mud flakes in which they are embedded. They could only have been blown by fierce glacial winds on to the sea surface from that distant landscape. Arriving thick and fast, they carried nutrients into the surface waters, fuelling its prolific life. The deep waters, though, were overwhelmed by rotting, sinking vegetation, becoming stagnant and lifeless -- ideal conditions to preserve the animal remains, down to their finest details. A cold wind, here, was key to both life and death."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. E. Gabbott, J. Zalasiewicz, R. J. Aldridge, J. N. Theron. Eolian input into the Late Ordovician postglacial Soom Shale, South Africa. Geology, 2010; 38 (12): 1103 DOI: 10.1130/G31426.1

Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Remarkable preservation of African fossils explained." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101129111740.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2011, January 21). Remarkable preservation of African fossils explained. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101129111740.htm
University of Leicester. "Remarkable preservation of African fossils explained." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101129111740.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) — Federal researchers have released new images of the City of Chester, a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888. Researchers recently found the shipwreck while mapping shipping routes. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins