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 Over 70% of glacier volume in Everest region could be lost by 2100
27.05.2015 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht Climate engineering may save coral reefs, study shows
26.05.2015 | University of Exeter

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Auf der Suche nach Leben in ausserirdischen Ozeanen

Grosse Ehre für Nicolas Thomas von der Universität Bern: Der Forscher wurde zum Mitglied des Kamerateams der NASA-Mission «Europa Clipper» ernannt. Mit ihrer Hilfe soll die Frage beantwortet werden, ob es in den Ozeanen des Jupiter-Mondes «Europa» Leben gibt.

Gibt es Leben im All? Antworten auf diese Frage erhofft sich die US-Weltraumbehörde NASA von der Mission «Europa Clipper». Das Ziel der in der Planungsphase...

Im Focus: Neue Perspektiven für das Laserstrahlschweißen von Bauteilen aus Aluminium-Druckguss

Das Fraunhofer IWS Dresden hat ein neues Verfahren zum Schweißen von Bauteilen aus Aluminium-Druckguss entwickelt und gemeinsam mit einem Industriepartner in die Serie überführt. Mit Hilfe brillanter Laserstrahlung und hochfrequenter Strahloszillation konnte erstmals eine Schweißverbindung erzeugt werden, die sich durch eine äußerst geringe Porenhäufigkeit im Schweißgut auszeichnet. Darüber hinaus ist der Bauteilverzug durch die konzentrierte, lokal begrenzte Wärmeeinbringung kaum noch messbar. Mit dem herkömmlichen Laserstrahlschweißen ist diese Qualität nicht realisierbar.

Wegen der hervorragenden Gießbarkeit und der Möglichkeit einer komplexen Formgebung wird Aluminium-Druckguss im Automobilbau vielfältig genutzt, insbesondere...

Im Focus: Advance in regenerative medicine

The only professorship in Germany to date, one master's programme, one laboratory with worldwide unique equipment and the corresponding research results: The University of Würzburg is leading in the field of biofabrication.

Paul Dalton is presently the only professor of biofabrication in Germany. About a year ago, the Australian researcher relocated to the Würzburg department for...

Im Focus: Eine Bremse gegen epileptische Anfälle in Nervenzellen

In jedem Augenblick werden an Billiarden Synapsen unseres Gehirns chemische Signale erzeugt, die einzelnen Nervenzellen feuern dabei bis zu 1000 mal in der Sekunde. Wie ihnen diese Höchstleistung gelingt ohne dabei epileptische Anfälle zu erzeugen, haben Wissenschaftler am Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie in Berlin nun ein Stück weit aufgeklärt. Das Ergebnis könnte zu einem besseren Verständnis nicht nur der Epilepsie, sondern auch anderer neurologischer Erkrankungen wie der Alzheimerschen Krankheit beitragen.

Mit jedem elektrischen Impuls schüttet eine Nervenzelle Neurotransmitter in den synaptischen Spalt aus und trägt so das Signal weiter. Sie hält dafür einen...

Im Focus: Kieler Forschende bauen die kleinsten Maschinen der Welt

Die DFG stellt Millionenförderung für die Entwicklung neuartiger Medikamente und Materialien an der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) bereit.

Großer Jubel an der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU): Wie die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) heute (Donnerstag, 21. Mai) bekannt gab,...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

Kaba Days in Bingen und Friedrichshafen: Ganzheitliche Sicherheit im Blick

27.05.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Stadtgesellschaft 2025 – Gemeinsam statt gegeneinander?!

27.05.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Schweigen ist Silber, Diskutieren ist Gold

26.05.2015 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Kaba Days in Bingen und Friedrichshafen: Ganzheitliche Sicherheit im Blick

27.05.2015 | Veranstaltungsnachrichten

Gleichgewichtsorgan der Hörnchen unterscheidet sich je nach Bewegungsart

27.05.2015 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Wissenschaftliche Weiterbildung: Land und EU legen Programm über 11 Millionen Euro auf

27.05.2015 | Förderungen Preise