William Ausich (left) and Christina O’Malley (right) study fossils of ancient
sea animals called crinoids. Here, O’Malley holds a modern crinoid.
Credit: Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons, courtesy of Ohio State University

Ancient Sea Creatures Yield Oldest Fossil Biomolecules

Source: Ohio State University

Origin & Evolution of Life
Posted: 02/21/13

Summary: Scientists have found 350-million-year-old fossils that contain intact organic molecules sealed in their pores. Prior to this discovery, it was thought that complex organic molecules couldn’t survive fossilization.

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.

Read more: Ancient Sea Creatures Yield Oldest Fossil Biomolecules — Astrobiology Magazine.

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