Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Organic Preservation of Fossil Musculature

Organic preservation of fossil musculature with ultracellular detail. 2009. M. McNamara, et al. Proc. R. Soc. B published online before print October 14, 2009.
Scientists have extracted organically preserved muscle tissue from an 18 million year old salamander fossil.

The FF do science. © Marvel Comics
The scientists claim that their discovery is unequivocal evidence that high-fidelity organic preservation of extremely decay prone soft tissues is more common in the fossil record – the only physical record of the history of life on earth.

Previous examples of soft tissues fossilised in this way have been limited to samples extracted from amber or inside bone – a very rare set of circumstances. This latest discovery simply occurs inside the body of the salamander tucked in beside the spine.

“We came across the muscle tissue during our analysis of several hundred fossil samples taken from an ancient lake bed in Southern Spain. It was immediately identifiable by the sinewy texture visible under the microscope,” says Dr Patrick Orr.

”We noticed that there had been very little degradation since it was originally fossilised about 18 million years ago, making it the highest quality soft tissue preservation ever documented in the fossil record.” The muscle tissue is organically preserved in three dimensions, with circulatory vessels infilled with blood. link