Science can sometimes be a messy endeavor – not to mention a “disgusting and smelly” activity. This is how British researchers described their experiments, during which they observed the carcasses of sea bass as they rotted for 70 days. In the process, they gained fascinating insights into how (and why) the soft tissues of internal organs can be selectively preserved in fossils. new page Published in the Journal of Paleontology.
Most fossils are bones, shells, teeth, and other “hard” tissues, but occasionally rare fossils are discovered that preserve soft tissues such as skin, muscles, organs, or even an eyeball. This can tell scientists so much about aspects of biology, ecology and evolution of ancient organisms that skeletons alone could not convey. At the beginning of the year, for example Create researchers Highly detailed 3D model of a 365 million year old ammonite fossil jura period by combining advanced imaging techniques, Explore the inner muscles which were not previously observed.
“One of the best ways to turn soft tissues into rocks is to replace them with a mineral called calcium phosphate (sometimes called apatite)” Co-author Thomas Clements said: from the University of Birmingham. “Scientists have been studying calcium phosphate for decades to understand how this process happens – but one question we don’t understand is why some internal organs seem more likely than others.”
Specifically, the muscles, stomach, and intestines tend to “phosphate” more often than other organs, such as the kidneys and gonads. There are two general hypotheses to explain this. The first is that different organs break down at different rates, and the pH of some organs drops below the critical threshold of 6.4. When these organs break down, they create a specific pH microenvironment that increases the possibility of organ ossification. Different minerals can form in different areas within the same carcass.