Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Powerful microscope reveals chemical structure of fossils

Date:
February 28, 2011
Source:
University of Royal Holloway London
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 Palaeozoic era.

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 Palaeozoic 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. Professor George Cody of the Carnegie Institution for Science and an international team of scientists including Professor Andrew C Scott from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London discovered relicts of protein-chitin complex in fossils of arthropods from the Palaeozoic era. Their findings, published online by Geology February 9, 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 Palaeozoic.

The scientists 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 in the USA, 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 Palaeozoic 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.

Professor Scott adds " this research will aid our understanding of the fossilization process and this new technique allows us to reveal the chemical nature of the fossil without total destruction." Professor Cody further 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Royal Holloway London. 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:

University of Royal Holloway London. "Powerful microscope reveals chemical structure of fossils." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110209082640.htm>.
University of Royal Holloway London. (2011, February 28). Powerful microscope reveals chemical structure of fossils. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110209082640.htm
University of Royal Holloway London. "Powerful microscope reveals chemical structure of fossils." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110209082640.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Iconic 'Easy Rider' Chopper Bike to Go on Auction Block

Iconic 'Easy Rider' Chopper Bike to Go on Auction Block

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — The iconic Harley-Davidson motorbike ridden by Peter Fonda in the 1969 classic "Easy Rider" is to go under the hammer in California, and auctioneers predict it will make at least $1 million. Duration: 01:09 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Egypt Denies Claims Oldest Pyramid Damaged in Restoration

Egypt Denies Claims Oldest Pyramid Damaged in Restoration

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — Egypt's antiquities minister denied Tuesday claims that the Djoser pyramid, the country's first, had been damaged during restoration work by a company accused of being unqualified to do such work. Duration: 00:56 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
King Richard III's Painful Cause Of Death Revealed

King Richard III's Painful Cause Of Death Revealed

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) — King Richard III died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and now researchers examining his skull think they know how. 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