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MU researchers find rare fossilized embryos more than 500 million years old
Date:4/10/2014

d how the fossils were preserved, because their chemical makeups can also offer clues about the nature of the organisms' original tissues, Schiffbauer said.

"Something obviously went wrong in these fossils," Schiffbauer said. "Our Earth has a pretty good way of cleaning up after things die. Here, the cells' self-destructive mechanisms didn't happen, and these soft tissues could be preserved. While studying the fossils we collected, we found over 140 spherically shaped fossils, some of which include features that are reminiscent of division stage embryos, essentially frozen in time."

The fossilized embryos the researchers found were significantly smaller than other fossil embryos from the same time period, suggesting they represent a yet undescribed organism. Additional research will focus on identifying the parents of these embryos, and their evolutionary position.

Schiffbauer and his colleagues published this and related research in a volume of the Journal of Paleontology which he co-edited. The special issue, published by the Paleontological Society, includes several papers that analyze fossil evidence collected worldwide and includes integrated research focusing on this time frame, the EdiacaranCambrian transition. Schiffbauer and Broce's research, "Possible animal embryos form the lower Cambrian Shuijingtuo Formation, Hubei Province, South China," was funded by the National Science Foundation.


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Contact: Jeff Sossamon
sossamonj@missouri.edu
573-882-3346
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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