Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

Ancient Fossilized Sea Creatures Yield Oldest Biomolecules Isolated Directly From a Fossil

20.02.2013
Though scientists have long believed that complex organic molecules couldn’t survive fossilization, some 350-million-year-old remains of aquatic sea creatures uncovered in Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa have challenged that assumption.

The spindly animals with feathery arms—called crinoids, but better known today by the plant-like name “sea lily”—appear to have been buried alive in storms during the Carboniferous Period, when North America was covered with vast inland seas. Buried quickly and isolated from the water above by layers of fine-grained sediment, their porous skeletons gradually filled with minerals, but some of the pores containing organic molecules were sealed intact.

That’s the conclusion of Ohio State University geologists, who extracted the molecules directly from individual crinoid fossils in the laboratory, and determined that different species of crinoid contained different molecules. The results will appear in the March issue of the journal Geology.

William Ausich, professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State and co-author of the paper, explained why the organic molecules are special.

“There are lots of fragmented biological molecules—we call them biomarkers—scattered in the rock everywhere. They’re the remains of ancient plant and animal life, all broken up and mixed together,” he said. “But this is the oldest example where anyone has found biomarkers inside a particular complete fossil. We can say with confidence that these organic molecules came from the individual animals whose remains we tested.”

The molecules appear to be aromatic compounds called quinones, which are found in modern crinoids and other animals. Quinones sometimes function as pigments or as toxins to discourage predators.

Lead author Christina O’Malley, who completed this work to earn her doctoral degree, first began the study when she noticed something strange about some crinoids that had perished side by side and become preserved in the same piece of rock: the different species were preserved in different colors.

In one rock sample used in the study, one crinoid species appears a light bluish-gray, while another appears dark gray and yet another more of a creamy white. All stand out from the color of the rock they were buried in. The researchers have since found similar fossil deposits from around the Midwest.

“People noticed the color differences 100 years ago, but no one ever investigated it,” O’Malley said. “The analytical tools were not available to do this kind of work as they are today.”

O’Malley isolated the molecules by grinding up small bits of fossil and dissolving them into a solution. Then she injected a tiny sample of the solution into a machine called a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer. The machine vaporized the solution so that a magnet could separate individual molecules based on electric charge and mass. Computer software identified the molecules as similar to quinones.

Then, with study co-author and Ohio State geochemist Yu-Ping Chin, she compared the organic molecules from the fossils with the molecules that are common in living crinoids today. Just as the researchers suspected, quinone-like molecules occur in both living crinoids and their fossilized ancestors.

Though different colored fossils contained different quinones, the researchers cautioned that there’s no way to tell whether the quinones functioned as pigments, or that the preserved colors as they appear today were similar to the colors that the crinoids had in life.

Part of why the crinoids were so well preserved has to do with the structure of their skeletons, the researchers said. Like sand dollars, crinoids have skin on top of a hard calcite shell. In the case of crinoids, their long bodies are made up of thousands of stacked calcite rings, and each ring is a single large calcite crystal that contains pores filled with living tissue. When a crinoid dies, the tissue will start to decay, but calcite will precipitate into the pores, and calcite is stable over geologic time. Thus, organic matter may become sealed whole within the rock.

“We think that rock fills in the skeleton according to how the crystals are oriented. So it’s possible to find large crystals filled in such a way that they have organic matter still trapped inside,” Ausich said.

The location of the fossils was also key to their preservation. In the flat American Midwest, the rocks weren’t pushed up into mountain chains or heated by volcanism, so from the Ohio State geologists’ perspective, they are pristine.

Their next challenge is to identify the exact type of quinone molecules they found, and determine how much information about individual species can be gleaned from them.

“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,” Ausich said. “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.”

This research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Geological Society of America.

Contacts: Christina O'Malley, Omalley.47@osu.edu
William Ausich, (614) 292-3353; Ausich.1@osu.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu

Pam Frost Gorder | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Past and present sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay Region, USA
29.07.2015 | Geological Society of America

nachricht “Carbon sink” detected underneath world’s deserts
29.07.2015 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Superschneller Wellenritt im Kristall: Elektronik auf Zeitskala einzelner Lichtschwingungen möglich

Physikern der Universitäten Regensburg und Marburg ist es gelungen, die von einem starken Lichtfeld getriebene Bewegung von Elektronen in einem Halbleiter in extremer Zeitlupe zu beobachten. Dabei konnten sie ein grundlegend neues Quantenphänomen entschlüsseln. Die Ergebnisse der Wissenschaftler sind jetzt in der renommierten Fachzeitschrift „Nature“ veröffentlicht worden (DOI: 10.1038/nature14652).

Die rasante Entwicklung in der Elektronik mit Taktraten bis in den Gigahertz-Bereich hat unser Alltagsleben revolutioniert. Sie stellt jedoch auch Forscher...

Im Focus: On the crest of the wave: Electronics on a time scale shorter than a cycle of light

Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.

The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...

Im Focus: Erster Nachweis von Lithium in einem explodierenden Stern

Erstmals konnte das chemische Element Lithium in der ausgestoßenen Materie einer Nova nachgewiesen werden. Beobachtungen von Nova Centauri 2013 mit Teleskopen des La Silla-Observatoriums der ESO und in der Nähe von Santiago de Chile helfen bei der Aufklärung des Rätsels, warum so viele junge Sterne mehr von diesem Element enthalten als erwartet. Diese Entdeckung liefert ein seit langem fehlendes Teil im Puzzle der chemischen Entwicklungsgeschichte unserer Galaxie und ist ein großer Fortschritt für das Verständnis des Mischungsverhältnisses der chemischen Elemente in den Sternen unserer Milchstraße.

Das leichte chemische Element Lithium ist eines der wenigen Elemente, das nach unserer Modellvorstellung auch beim Urknall vor 13,8 Milliarden Jahren...

Im Focus: Durch den Monsun: Flugzeugmission zu Auswirkungen auf Luftqualität und Klimawandel

Mit dem Flugzeug von Zypern auf die Malediven und zurück. Was nach einer Urlaubsreise klingt, ist für 65 Atmosphärenforscher aus ganz Deutschland anspruchsvolle Arbeit: Bei einer Forschungsmission mit dem Flugzeug HALO des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt untersuchen sie derzeit, ob und wie sich die Monsun-Regenfälle in Asien auf die Selbstreinigungskraft der Atmosphäre auswirken. Mit an Bord sind auch zwei Messgeräte des Karlsruher Instituts für Technologie (KIT): Die Karlsruher Klimaforscher messen dabei unter anderem die Konzentrationen von Ozon und Aceton. Das Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie in Mainz koordiniert die Kampagne.

„Die Erdatmosphäre kann sich von Treibhausgasen oder Abgasen aus dem Verkehr selbst reinigen. Dabei wandeln Hydroxyl-Radikale – das sind besonders...

Im Focus: Lichtschalter auf DVD

Da sich die elektronischen Eigenschaften eines optischen Speichermaterials schneller ändern als seine Struktur, könnte es neue Anwendungen finden

In DVDs steckt möglicherweise mehr als bisher angenommen. Das Material aus Germanium, Antimon und Tellur, in dem die Datenträger Information speichern, könnte...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

Tagung „Brandschutz im Tank- und Gefahrgutlager“ am 16. November 2015 im Essener Haus der Technik stellt praktische Lösungen vor

30.07.2015 | Veranstaltungen

12. BMBF-Forum für Nachhaltigkeit: Green Economy, Energiewende und die Zukunft der Städte

30.07.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Elektropott: Ruhrgebiets-Hackathon soll Innovation, Kreativität und Teamgeist junger Talente fördern

29.07.2015 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Effiziente Infrarot-Wärme spart Zeit und Energie bei der Herstellung von Autoteppichen

30.07.2015 | Messenachrichten

Deutsche Börse platziert Hybridanleihe im Volumen von EUR 600 Millionen

30.07.2015 | Wirtschaft Finanzen

Tagung „Brandschutz im Tank- und Gefahrgutlager“ am 16. November 2015 im Essener Haus der Technik stellt praktische Lösungen vor

30.07.2015 | Veranstaltungsnachrichten