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 October 1, 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 October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) — A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

AFP (Sep. 25, 2014) — American doctor and photographer Jeff Gusky reveals the underground quarries used by the soldiers of World War One, and the artwork they left behind which illustrates their hopes and fears. Duration: 02:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) — A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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