Navigation Links
The last 3 million years at a snail's pace
Date:8/4/2011

Scientists at the University of York, using an 'amino acid time capsule', have led the largest ever programme to date the British Quaternary period, stretching back nearly three million years.

It is the first widespread application of refinements of the 40-year-old technique of amino acid geochronology. The refined method, developed at York's BioArCh laboratories, measures the breakdown of a closed system of protein in fossil snail shells, and provides a method of dating archaeological and geological sites.

Britain has an unparalleled studied record of fossil-rich terrestrial sediments from the Quaternary, a period that includes relatively long glacial episodes known as the Ice Age --interspersed with shorter 'interglacial' periods where temperatures may have exceeded present day values.

However, too often the interglacial deposits have proved difficult to link to global climatic signals because they are just small isolated exposures, often revealed by quarrying..

Using the new method, known as amino acid racemization, it will be possible to link climatic records from deep sea sediments and ice cores with the responses of plants and animals, including humans, to climate change over the last three million years. The research is published in the latest issue of Nature.

The new method was developed by Dr Kirsty Penkman, of the Department of Chemistry, alongside Prof. Matthew Collins of the Department of Archaeology at York, and measures the the extent of protein degradation in calcareous fossils such as mollusc shells. It is based on the analysis of intra-crystalline amino acids the building blocks of protein --preserved in the fossil opercula (the little 'trapdoor' the snail uses to shut itself away inside its shell) of the freshwater gastropod Bithynia. It provides the first single method that is able to accurately date such a wide range of sites over this time period.

Dr Penkman said: "The amino acids are securely preserved within calcium carbonate crystals of the opercula. This crystal cage protects the protein from external environmental factors, so the extent of internal protein degradation allows us to identify the age of the samples. In essence, they are a protein time capsule.

"This framework can be used to tell us in greater detail than ever before how plants and animals reacted to glacial and interglacial periods, and has helped us establish the patterns of human occupation of Britain, supporting the view that these islands were deserted in the Last Interglacial period."

In a close collaboration with palaeontologist Dr. Richard Preece in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, the study examined a total of 470 fossil remains from 71 sites in the UK and three on continental Europe. The method proved highly reliable with more than 98 per cent of samples yielding useful results, resulting in the largest ever geochronological programme of the British Pleistocene.

Professor Collins said: "When we started this work 11 years ago, we thought it was going to be relatively straightforward to identify a good material for dating, but the first 3 years of research on shells showed that the stability of the mineral itself was vital. The tiny trapdoor of a snail proved to be the key to success."

Dr Preece added: "Luckily, fossil opercula are common in Quaternary sediments around the world, so the new technique can be used to build regional Ice Age chronologies everywhere, giving it enormous international scope".


'/>"/>

Contact: David Garner
david.garner@york.ac.uk
44-019-043-22153
University of York
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. £2 million study to reveal workings of dementia genes
2. NIH awards Clemson bioengineer $1.5 million to improve durability of tissue heart valves
3. L-1 Identity Solutions Receives $5.9 Million Drivers License Contract Expansion from the State of Mississippi
4. L-1 Identity Solutions Awarded New Massachusetts RMV Drivers License Contract Valued at an Estimated $32 Million
5. FSU researchers discovery leads to $1.5 million grant, potential new treatment of liver fibrosis
6. Missouri Botanical Garden mounts milestone 6 millionth herbarium specimen
7. New $11 million center to speed production of new compounds for drug discovery
8. SAIC Awarded $37 Million Contract to Support U.S. Army Program Executive Office - Enterprise Information Systems
9. Eastman Dental Center awarded $1.6 million to find ways to prevent cavities
10. L-1 Identity Solutions Selected by the State of New York as the Winning Bidder to Provide Enrollment Services for a Contract Estimated at Up to $250 Million
11. Deep heat solution to 500-million year mystery
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/15/2016)... , March 15, 2016 ... report published by Transparency Market Research "Digital Door Lock Systems ... Forecast 2015 - 2023," the global digital door lock systems ... Mn in 2014 and is forecast to grow at a ... of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) across the world ...
(Date:3/11/2016)... , March 11, 2016 http://www.apimages.com ) ... Cross reference: Picture is available at AP Images ( http://www.apimages.com ) ... DERMALOG will be used to produce the new refugee identity cards. ... biometric innovations, at CeBIT in Hanover next ... from DERMALOG will be used to produce the new refugee identity ...
(Date:3/9/2016)... , March 9, 2016 This BCC Research ... states of the RNA Sequencing (RNA Seq) market for ... as instruments, tools and reagents, data analysis, and services. ... segments of the RNA-Sequencing market such as RNA-Sequencing tools ... the main factors affecting each segment and forecast their ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... , ... The Pittcon Organizing Committee is pleased to announce that Charles “Chuck” ... of Committee since 1987. Since then, he has served in a number of key ... for both the program and exposition committees. In his professional career, Dr. Gardner is ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... April 27, 2016 , ... The Board of ... appointment of John Tilton as Chief Commercial Officer.  Mr. Tilton joined Biohaven from ... founding commercial leaders responsible for the commercialization of multiple orphan drug indications. ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... April 27, 2016 , ... Global ... the GSCG Advisory Board. Ross is the founder of GSCG affiliate Kimera Labs in ... Miami, where he studied hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for hematologic disorders and the suppression ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... ANGELES, Calif. (PRWEB) , ... April 27, 2016 ... ... Angeles office of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP as an associate in the ... prosecuting U.S. and international electrical, mechanical and electromechanical patent applications. He has an ...
Breaking Biology Technology: