First image of protein residue in 50 million year old reptile skin

Mar 22, 2011
First image of protein residue in 50 million year old reptile skin
The reptile image worked on by the scientists. Credit: University of Manchester

(PhysOrg.com) -- The organic compounds surviving in fifty million year old fossilized reptile skin can be seen for the first time today, thanks to a stunning infra-red image produced by University of Manchester palaeontologists and geochemists.

Published in the journal Royal Society Proceedings B: Biology, the brightly-coloured image shows the presence of amides – the organic compounds, or building blocks of life – in the ancient of a reptile, found in the 50 million year-old rocks of the Green River Formation in Utah, USA.

This image had never been seen by the human eye, until a team led by Dr Roy Wogelius and Dr Phil Manning used state-of-the-art infra-red technology at The University of Manchester to reveal and map the fossilized soft tissue of a beautifully-preserved reptile.

These infra-red maps are backed up by the first ever element-specific maps of organic material in fossil skin generated using X-rays at the Stanford synchrotron in the USA, also by the Manchester researchers.

Chemical details are clear enough that the scientists, from the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, are even able to propose how this exceptional preservation occurs.

When the original compounds in the skin begin to break down they can form chemical bonds with trace metals, and under exceptional conditions these trace metals act like a 'bridge' to minerals in the sediments. This protects the skin material from being washed away or decomposing further.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
A video interview with Phil Manning and Roy Wogelius, co-authors of this article.

Geochemist Roy Wogelius: "The mapped distributions of organic compounds and trace metals in 50 million year old skin look so much like maps we've made of modern lizard skin as a check on our work, it is sometimes hard to tell which is the fossil and which is fresh."

"These new infra-red and X-ray methods reveal intricate chemical patterns that have been overlooked by traditional methods for decades."

The new images are compelling, and represent the next step in the academics' research programme to use modern analytical chemistry and 21st century techniques to understand how such remarkable preservation occurs, and ultimately to discover the chemistry of ancient life.

These new results imply that trace metal inventories and patterns in ancient skin, even after fossilisation, can indeed be compared to modern reptiles.

First image of protein residue in 50 million year old reptile skin

The infra-red light causes vibrations in the fossilized skin, and a map of where these vibrations occur can be obtained from a fossil by using a trick: a tiny crystal (like an old phonograph record stylus) which moves from point-to-point in a programmable grid across the surface.

At each point where the tiny crystal touches the fossil, an infra-red beam that shines through the crystal reflects off of the crystal base, but a small amount of the beam probes beyond the interface- and if are present, they absorb portions of the beam and change the reflected signal.

This allows the team to non-destructively map large fossils which do not themselves transmit or reflect the beam – a revolutionary process for paleontologists.

Nick Edwards, first author on the publication, said: "The ability to chemically analyse rare and precious fossils such as these without the need to remove material and destroy them is an important and long overdue addition to field of palaeontology.

"Hopefully this will provide future opportunities to unlock the information stored in other similarly preserved specimens."

Dr Manning said: "Here physics, palaeontology and chemistry have collided to yield incredible insight to the building blocks of fossilized soft tissue.

"The results of this study have wider implications, such as understanding what happens to buried wastes over long periods of time. The fossil record provides us with a long-running experiment, from which we can learn in order to help resolve current problems."

Explore further: Shrinking dinosaurs evolved into flying birds (w/ Video)

More information: The paper, Infra-Red Mapping Resolves Soft-Tissue Preservation in 50 Million Year Old Reptile Skin, by N. P. Edwards, H. E. Barden, B. E. van Dongen, P. L. Manning, P. L. Larson, U. Bergmann, W. I. Sellers and R. A. Wogelius, Royal Society Proceedings B: Biology.

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kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (8) Mar 23, 2011
are even able to propose how this exceptional preservation occurs.

The mapped distributions of organic compounds and trace metals in 50 million year old skin look so much like maps we've made of modern lizard skin as a check on our work, it is sometimes hard to tell which is the fossil and which is fresh.

If it walks like a duck, smells like a duck, squats like a duck, lOOKS like a duck and quacks like a duck then surely it must be a duck?!!!
In order to preserve evolutionary paradigms the researchers are willing to bury the truth as deep as possible. Anyone willing to believe it, will.
The simpler, clearer and more applicable explanation is that the lizard fossil is still quite young. Definitely not millions of years old. But of course if you choose to believe things created themselves then you have to make up stories like this.
Good luck finding an explanation for the exceptional conditions that are required for this exceptional preservation to happen. It's worth billn
jbeekman
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2011
@ kevinrtrs: But of course it's also true that this lizard fossil was imbedded within 50 million year old rocks.

Your ascertation that "In order to preserve evolutionary paradigms the researchers are willing to bury the truth as deep as possible. Anyone willing to believe it, will.", is much more descriptive of Young Earth Creationists, and not of science.

I offer as evidence part of "Principles of Biblical Creation" from the "Institute of Creation Research" http://www.icr.org/tenets/

"The Bible, consisting of the thirty-nine canonical books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven canonical books of the New Testament, is the divinely-inspired revelation of the Creator to man. Its unique, plenary, verbal inspiration GUARANTEES THAT THESE WRITINGS, AS ORIGINALLY AND MIRACULOUSLY GIVEN, ARE INFALLIBLE, AND COMPLETELY AUTHORITATIVE ON ALL MATTERS WITH WHICH THEY DEAL, FREE FROM ERROR OF ANY SORT, SCIENTIFIC AND HISTORICAL AS WELL AS MORAL AND THEOLOGICAL" (emphasis mine)
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2011
Religion: tells you what happens to you if you don't agree with them.

Science: tells you how to prove them wrong if you don't agree with them.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2011
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 6:1

Christian trolls... such a contradiction. Kevinrtrs: you should spend more time in the new testament and less time in Genesis.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2011
Kevinrtrs: If the dating methods used are flawed, please tell us how. Science doesn't hate your religion, there is no agenda. If the dating can be proven wrong, and the replacement dating scheme backs your story up, we will accept it. Really. No hate, just rational, critical observation.
Donutz
5 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2011
Using the bible to try to "prove" a young earth is like using the Lord of the Rings trilogy to "prove" the existance of dragons. Fictional books don't prove fictional events.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2011
If it walks like a duck, smells like a duck,
It must be a Creationist burying his head in the sands of massively Aggressive IgnoranceTM. As always Kevin see all new evidence that the world is vastly different from the one in the Bible as evidence that the world is exactly the one in the Bible.

In order to preserve evolutionary paradigms the researchers are willing to bury the truth as deep as possible.
That fits you anyway. Sure doesn't fit science. Did you ever see a truth you couldn't tell a lie about?

The simpler, clearer and more applicable explanation is that the lizard fossil is still quite young.
That must be why its in a ROCK. I guess it died yesterday right after burying itself and that right after buying and using an instant rock kit.

Definitely not millions of years old.
Definitely a delusional statement.

More
Ethelred
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2011
you have to make up stories like this.
You really should get paid for your fiction. It is about as believable as a teenage vampire book. "Reverend Twilight Vampire of the Creationist Cathedral meets Drowned Zombie Egyptian Pyramid Builders" by Kevin.

Good luck finding an explanation for the exceptional conditions that are required for this exceptional preservation to happen.
The explanation is in the article. Its pretty clear. Only brain death has kept you from understanding.

So Kevin, when where those Zombie Egyptians drowned while building pyramids and how come no one has any evidence for the flood occurring and drowning the workers?

Goodbye, Cowardly Liar.

Ethelred
Terrible_Bohr
5 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2011
Good luck finding an explanation for the exceptional conditions that are required for this exceptional preservation to happen. It's worth billn


We've found a LOT of fossils that don't have this level of preservation. There you go.
Jaeherys
5 / 5 (1) Mar 26, 2011
@kevinrtrs
Go and try to fossilize a plant and come back when it's done. See you in a few years right....?
Jaeherys
5 / 5 (1) Mar 26, 2011
It must be a Creationist burying his head in the sands of massively Aggressive IgnoranceTM


If I could rate you a 10, I would. That one made me laugh!