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Unique chromosomes preserved in Swedish fossil
Date:3/21/2014

Researchers from Lund University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History have made a unique discovery in a well-preserved fern that lived 180 million years ago. Both undestroyed cell nuclei and individual chromosomes have been found in the plant fossil, thanks to its sudden burial in a volcanic eruption.

The well-preserved fossil of a fern from the southern Swedish county of Skne is now attracting attention in the research community. The plant lived around 180 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, when Skne was a tropical region where the fauna was dominated by dinosaurs, and volcanoes were a common feature of the landscape. The fossilised fern has been studied using different microscopic techniques, X-rays and geochemical analysis. The examinations reveal that the plant was preserved instantaneously, before it had started to decompose. It was buried abruptly under a volcanic lava flow.

"The preservation happened so quickly that some cells have even been preserved during different stages of cell division", said Vivi Vajda, Professor of Geology at Lund University.

Thanks to the circumstances of the fern's sudden death, the sensitive components of the cells have been preserved. The researchers have found cell nuclei, cell membranes and even individual chromosomes. Such structures are extremely rare finds in fossils, observed Vivi Vajda.

"This naturally leads us to think that there must be more to discover. It isn't hard to imagine what else could be encapsulated in the lava flows at Korsard in Skne", said Vivi Vajda.

Professor Vajda has carried out the study with two researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Benjamin Bomfleur and Stephen McLoughlin. The fern belonged to the family Osmundaceae, Royal Ferns. In modern times, royal ferns grow in the wild in Sweden and are also a common garden plant. Living representatives of this family are very similar in appearance to the Jurassic fossil, whic
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Contact: Vivi Vajda
vivi.vajda@geol.lu.se
46-733-861-195
Lund University
Source:Eurekalert  

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Unique chromosomes preserved in Swedish fossil
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