Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unexpected exoskeleton remnants found in Paleozoic fossils

Date:
February 8, 2011
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
Surprising new research shows that, contrary to conventional belief, remains of chitin-protein complex -- structural materials containing protein and polysaccharide -- are present in abundance in fossils of arthropods from the Paleozoic era. Previously the oldest molecular signature of chitin-protein complex was discovered in 25-million-year-old Cenozoic fossils. Their findings could have major implications for our understanding of the organic fossil record.

High resolution X-ray Absorption Image mapping organic nitrogen abundance (brighter) in an ultra-thin section of modern scorpion cuticle. Scale bar = 5 m
Credit: Image courtesy of Carnegie Institution

Surprising new research shows that, contrary to conventional belief, remains of chitin-protein complex -- structural materials containing protein and polysaccharide -- are present in abundance in fossils of arthropods from the Paleozoic era. Previously the oldest molecular signature of chitin-protein complex was discovered in 25-million-year-old Cenozoic fossils and remnants of structural protein have also been discovered in 80 million-year-old Mesozoic fossils.

Carnegie's George Cody and an international team of scientists discovered relicts of protein-chitin complex in fossils of arthropods from the Paleozoic era. Their findings, published online by Geology, could have major implications for our understanding of the organic fossil record.

Among other common features, arthropods have exoskeletons, or cuticles. The outer portions of these cuticles are made up of a composite of chitin fibers, which are embedded in a matrix of protein. It is well known that chitin and structural protein are easily degraded by microorganisms and it has long been believed that chitin and structural proteins would not be present in fossils of moderate age, let alone in fossils dating back to the early Paleozoic.

Cody and his team studied fossil remains of a 310-million-year-old scorpion cuticle from northern Illinois and a 417-million-year-old eurypterid -- an extinct scorpion-like arthropod, possibly related to horseshoe crabs -- from Ontario, Canada. Using sophisticated analytical instrument at the Advanced Light Source facility, the research team measured the absorption spectra of low-energy X-rays by carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in the fossils. These measurements were taken at a resolution on the order of 25 nanometers. The researchers showed that the majority of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen found in these fossils from the Paleozoic era were derived from a protein-chitin complex. Not surprisingly, the protein-chitin material was somewhat degraded, either by chemical processes or partial bacterial degradation.

Cody speculates that the vestigial protein-chitin complex may play a critical role in organic fossil preservation by providing a substrate protected from total degradation by a coating waxy substances that protect the arthropods from desiccation.

This research was supported by funds from National Aeronautics and Space Administration Astrobiology Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some of the researchers were supported by donations to the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund. The analyses reported here were performed at the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory -- a Department of Energy supported facility.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. G. D. Cody, N. S. Gupta, D. E. G. Briggs, A. L. D. Kilcoyne, R. E. Summons, F. Kenig, R. E. Plotnick, A. C. Scott. Molecular signature of chitin-protein complex in Paleozoic arthropods. Geology, 2011; DOI: 10.1130/G31648.1

Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Unexpected exoskeleton remnants found in Paleozoic fossils." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207115046.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2011, February 8). Unexpected exoskeleton remnants found in Paleozoic fossils. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207115046.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Unexpected exoskeleton remnants found in Paleozoic fossils." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207115046.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Where Did The World Trade Center Shipwreck Come From?

Where Did The World Trade Center Shipwreck Come From?

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Scientists say a ship remnant discovered underneath Ground Zero dates back to the 18th century. Why it sank is still uncertain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

AP (July 29, 2014) Food scraps and other items left on the grounds by picnickers brings unwelcome visitors to the grounds of the world famous and popular Louvre Museum in Paris. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
London's Famed 'Gherkin' Goes on Sale for 650 Mln

London's Famed 'Gherkin' Goes on Sale for 650 Mln

AFP (July 29, 2014) London's "Gherkin" office tower, one of the landmarks on the British capital's skyline, went on sale for about 650 million ($1.1 billion, 820 million euros) on Tuesday after being placed into receivership. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
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