Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Million suns shed light on fossilized plant

Date:
March 25, 2014
Source:
Manchester University
Summary:
Scientists have used one of the brightest lights in the Universe to expose the biochemical structure of a 50 million-year-old fossil plant to stunning visual effect. The team of palaeontologists, geochemists and physicists investigated the chemistry of exceptionally preserved fossil leaves from the Eocene-aged 'Green River Formation' of the western United States by bombarding the fossils with X-rays brighter than a million suns produced by synchrotron particle accelerators.

Optical plus X-ray false color composite image (Cu = red, Zn = green, and Ni =blue) montage of a 50 million year old leaf fossil.
Credit: P. wyomingensis, specimen BHI-3113

Scientists have used one of the brightest lights in the Universe to expose the biochemical structure of a 50 million-year-old fossil plant to stunning visual effect.

Related Articles


The team of palaeontologists, geochemists and physicists investigated the chemistry of exceptionally preserved fossil leaves from the Eocene-aged 'Green River Formation' of the western United States by bombarding the fossils with X-rays brighter than a million suns produced by synchrotron particle accelerators.

Researchers from Britain's University of Manchester and Diamond Light Source and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource in the US have published their findings, along with amazing images, in Metallomics; one of the images is featured on the cover of the latest edition of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal.

Lead author Dr Nicholas Edwards, a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Manchester, said: "The synchrotron has already shown its potential in teasing new information from fossils, in particular our group's previous work on pigmentation in fossil animals. With this study, we wanted to use the same techniques to see whether we could extract a similar level of biochemical information from a completely different part of the tree of life.

"To do this we needed to test the chemistry of the fossil plants to see if the fossil material was derived directly from the living organisms or degraded and replaced by the fossilisation process.

"We know that plant chemistry can be preserved over hundreds of millions of years -- this preserved chemistry powers our society today in the form of fossil fuels. However, this is just the 'combustible' part; until now no one has completed this type of study of the other biochemical components of fossil plants, such as metals."

By combining the unique capabilities of two synchrotron facilities, the team were able to produce detailed images of where the various elements of the periodic table were located within both living and fossil leaves, as well as being able to show how these elements were combined with other elements.

The work shows that the distribution of copper, zinc and nickel in the fossil leaves was almost identical to that in modern leaves. Each element was concentrated in distinct biological structures, such as the veins and the edges of the leaves, and the way these trace elements and sulphur were attached to other elements was very similar to that seen in modern leaves and plant matter in soils.

Co-author Professor Roy Wogelius, from Manchester's School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, said: "This type of chemical mapping and the ability to determine the atomic arrangement of biologically important elements, such as copper and sulphur, can only be accomplished by using a synchrotron particle accelerator.

"In one beautiful specimen, the leaf has been partially eaten by prehistoric caterpillars -- just as modern caterpillars feed -- and their feeding tubes are preserved on the leaf. The chemistry of these fossil tubes remarkably still matches that of the leaf on which the caterpillars fed."

The data from a suite of other techniques has led the team to conclude that the chemistry of the fossil leaves is not wholly sourced from the surrounding environment, as has previously been suggested, but represents that of the living leaves. Another modern-day connection suggests a way in which these specimens are so beautifully preserved over millions of years.

Manchester palaeontologist and co-author Dr Phil Manning said: "We think that copper may have aided preservation by acting as a 'natural' biocide, slowing down the usual microbial breakdown that would destroy delicate leaf tissues. This property of copper is used today in the same wood preservatives that you paint on your garden fence before winter approaches."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Nicholas Paul Edwards, Phillip Lars Manning, Uwe Bergmann, Peter Lars Larson, Bart van Dongen, William I Sellers, Samuel M Webb, Dimosthenis Sokaras, Roberto Alonso Mori, Konstantin Ignatyev, Holly E Barden, Arjen van Veelen, Jennifer Anne, Victoria M Egerton, Roy A Wogelius. Leaf metallome preserved over 50 million years. Metallomics, 2014; DOI: 10.1039/C3MT00242J

Cite This Page:

Manchester University. "Million suns shed light on fossilized plant." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140325210416.htm>.
Manchester University. (2014, March 25). Million suns shed light on fossilized plant. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140325210416.htm
Manchester University. "Million suns shed light on fossilized plant." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140325210416.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — Media is calling it an "underwater Pompeii." Researchers have found ruins off the coast of Delos. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

AFP (Nov. 22, 2014) — Faces in an area of mosaics is the latest find by archaeologists at a recently discovered tomb dating back to fourth century BC and the time of Alexander the Great in Greece. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) — The United States has returns over 500 vases, bowls, axes, and other ancient artifacts mostly from the Ban Chiang archaeological site which were illegally looted from Thailand decades ago. Duration: 01:13 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:

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