October 7, 2022

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Researchers find glowing spider fossils in southern France

Researchers find glowing spider fossils in southern France

A fossilized spider from the Aix-en-Provence formation in France.  An overlay is a fluorescent micrograph of the same fossil.

A fossilized spider from the Aix-en-Provence formation in France. An overlay is a fluorescent micrograph of the same fossil.
picture: Olcott et al

A team of researchers studying 22.5-million-year-old spider fossils from Aix-en-Provence was surprised when the fossilized pests glowed under a fluorescent microscope. The group said the brilliance was likely due to fossilized conditions.

At the end of the Oligocene period, spiders lived in a lake or lake. The bedrock in which it was found is so abundant with fossilized insects that it is known as an insect bed It has been studied since the late eighteenth century.

In this case, researchers examining spider fossils wanted to understand exactly what conditions promoted these good conservation conditions. and find out fluorescence in the process. they search published Today in Earth and Environment Communications.

Allison Olcott, a chemical paleontologist at the University of Kansas and lead author of the paper, said in an email to Gizmodo.

So there is no old Spider-Man novel here. Spiders were arthropods normal enough to live, without the glow of their hard exoskeletons. So far under a fluorescent microscope, details about Anatomy – Like The abdomen and claw were highlighted.

Using a scanning electron microscope, the team found several spherical and needle-like microfossils covering the same spider-rock. Then, by exposing the fossil to an energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer (which reveals a raw map of a target), the team determined that the microfossils consisted of silica.

Photo of fossil polymers and microfossils.

Most of the microfossils were diatoms, silicon algae still dominate ground oceans today. Researchers believe that diatoms preserved soft tissue organisms in this ancient environment; Specifically, the mats of microalgae are called extracellular polymeric materials The chemistry of spiders is stabilized and protected from deterioration. Different polymers in the fossil cause it to shine automatically under specific illumination.

“If you’ve ever come across a sticky mat like a colorful raft of sticky substance over a lake or pond or on a rock or even in a puddle on a sidewalk, you’ve seen EPS,” Olcott said, “as this is what helps the biofilm stick together and stick to surfaces.” Olcott added that gummy bears use bacterial extruded polystyrene as a thickener, so you may have eaten it too.

The researchers hypothesized that the spiders’ path to conservation happened like this: TArthropods drifted onto the surface of a lake or lake on a mat of diatoms, which sank into the sediment floor. Trapped in diatoms, spiders Then it was subjected to the natural pressure of the sediments that cause the formation of fossils.

This isn’t the first time that the University of Kansas has conducted a search for glowing fossilized spiders. In 2019, Paul Selden – Co-Author About The New Research paper – produced research on the preserved glowing eyes of a 100-million-year-old spider, such as Reported by Gizmodo. It probably wouldn’t be the last time either. The team plans to study other deposits besides the site at Aix, to see how much similar fossils preserved could be linked to diatom mats elsewhere.

To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, this is one small step for paleontology, eight small steps for the subdiscipline of fossil autofluorescence.

MORE: A giant half-billion-year-old predator fossil has been pulled from the Canadian Rockies

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