Scientists Find Aromatic Biomolecules Preserved in 350 Million Year Old Fossil
February 19, 2013 6:18 PM
comment(s) - last by
Ancient crinoid toxins/pigments were only discovered after careful extraction
Looking at fossils of so-called "sea lillies" or crinoids, observers have sometimes noted a curious thing -- they're often different colors than the base rock. For example, one sample recent examined by
Ohio State University
geology Ph.D student Christina O'Malley was a light blue gray, another was dark grey, and a third was cream colored.
I. A Shocking Discovery
Grinding up small bits of the colorful fossilized sea critters and analyzing their chemistry with a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, Ms. O'Malley made a surprising discovery. The fossilization had preserved quinones, a type of aromatic biomolecule that serve both as a pigment, and sometimes as a toxin to ward off predators.
The discovery was unusual because aromatic molecules -- which also included molecules
like dioxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
-- were thought to be almost entirely broken down after just millions of years.
Crinoids' color presumably comes from preserved biochemicals. [Image Source: OSU]
The key to the preservation was the mineral calcite that permeated into the sea creature's pores and locked in the organics during the fossilization. And while many fossils are exposed to harsh conditions -- volcanism or mountain range shifts -- the crinoids found in Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa digs were exposed to relatively gentle conditions.
This allowed the fragile biomolecules to stand the test of time.
II. Biochemicals Could be Useful in IDing Species
Ms. O'Malley and her advisor
Professor William Ausich
are confident that the quinones were indeed produced by the ancient crinoids as they are similar in composition to quinone pigments produced by the crinoids modern-day living relatives.
Quinones (purple) are found in modern Crinoids as well. [Image Source: Biochimica]
The Ph.D student says her predecessors lacked the tools to perform that kind of analysis, commenting, "People noticed the color differences 100 years ago, but no one ever investigated it. The analytical tools were not available to do this kind of work as they are today."
The work was
in the peer-reviewed journal
and featured OSU geochemist
as a coauthor. The
National Science Foundation
Geological Society of America
funded the work.
Professor Ausisch cheered the discovery, suggesting it could provide clues about ancient genetics. He comments, "These molecules are not DNA, and they'll never be as good as DNA as a means to define evolutionary relationships, but they could still be useful. We suspect that there's some kind of biological signal there -- we just need to figure out how specific it is before we can use it as a means to track different species."
Those clues could give scientists better perspective on what life was like in North American 350 million years ago in the Carboniferous Period, a time when vast seas covered North America.
Ohio State University
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
2/20/2013 1:04:22 PM
My favorite intelligent design idea is of a scientist bent over a tray of small sample containers taking readings, inside one of the containers is our universe, where we are wondering what it is all about...
"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
Report: Eccentric Billionaire Hopes to Clone Dinosaurs
August 2, 2012, 4:26 AM
Chagrined Over Leaks, CDC Confirms First U.S. Ebola Diagnosis in Dallas, Texas
September 30, 2014, 5:55 PM
Nail Polish May Soon be Able to Detect Date Rape Drugs
August 26, 2014, 7:57 AM
SpaceX Falcon 9-R Rocket Suffers Malfunction, Self-Destructs During Test Flight
August 23, 2014, 9:36 AM
Texas Chosen as Site for SpaceX's First Commercial Launchpad
August 5, 2014, 1:44 PM
South Carolina Prison Finds Crashed Drone Carrying Drugs, Phones
August 1, 2014, 2:49 PM
NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Gains Seven New Instruments for Exploration
August 1, 2014, 1:30 PM
Most Popular Articles
New AT&T Mobile Share Value "Double Data" Promotion Lasts Through October
September 28, 2014, 8:32 AM
Update: Apple Releases iOS 8.0.2 Update to Make Up for Botched 8.0.1 Release
September 25, 2014, 8:19 PM
Appalling Negligence: Decade-Old Windows XPe Holes Led to Home Depot Hack
September 8, 2014, 8:58 PM
TiVo Mega Features 24TB of Storage, Can Record Three Years* Worth of TV Content
September 8, 2014, 8:45 AM
FBI Outraged That Apple, Google are Adopting Digital "Locks" to Protect Users
September 26, 2014, 1:00 PM
Latest Blog Posts
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information