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A new view of fossils: The behavior of ancient life forms
Date:6/15/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. A new book by researchers at Oregon State University uses the snapshot-in-time miracle of amber to offer a pioneering viewpoint on all types of animal and plant fossils not just what ancient life forms looked like, but how they functioned and behaved, especially at the moment of death.

All kinds of behavior, ranging from the nurturing protection of a mother, mating and reproductive instincts, to the behavior of pathogenic microbes can be observed in extinct life that's millions of years old, and was captured in oozing tree sap that later turned into the semi-precious stone amber. Other fossils besides amber, including those preserved in sedimentary rock deposits, were also used in the compilation.

The range of evidence, the researchers said, suggests a different view of evolution that most behavior appears to be retained, and when it doesn't serve the long-term survival of the species, extinction occurs.

"What we're really seeing in these looks back in time is that the behavior makes the organism," said George Poinar, a zoologist at OSU and one of the world's leading experts in the study of life forms found in amber.

"Through fossils we can trace behaviors back many millions of years, and it appears they tend to persist, that primeval forms of behavior never really change," Poinar said. "Species may evolve physically, but behavioral changes are much less obvious and many species will go extinct because they cannot change the way they act."

The book, "Fossil Behavior Compendium," was written by Poinar and Arthur Boucot, a distinguished professor emeritus of zoology at OSU and expert on evolution, paleobiology and behavior of ancient life forms. Published by CRC Press, it is written for a general audience.

In one amber fossil, a 100-million-year-old gecko shows the same sophisticated method of toe adhesion that allows it to walk easily on vertical and even inverted surfaces a capability t
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Contact: George Poinar
poinarg@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-5366
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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