Monday, 17 Nov, 2008 Science

100M-Years-Old Primitive Organisms Discovered in Tree Resin


diatomIntact marine microorganisms have been recently found in tree resin. Scientists claim that the perfectly preserved microorganisms might have been trapped in the resin 100 million years ago.

The discovery was made in the Charente region, located in southwestern France. According to the latest study, the find pushes back the era of appearance of the world's first single-cell algae - diatoms - by at least 20 million years. The research on the discovery was performed by experts from the National History Museum in Paris and scientists from the National Center for Scientific Research in Strasbourg. Its results were published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science."

This surprising findind could deepen our perception of these lost marine species and offer precious information regarding the coastal environment of Western France in the times of the Cretaceous Period.

The microorganisms were discovered in only a few pieces of amber, being preserved among thousands of other species that were studied: unicellular algae, animal plankton, including radiolaria and a foraminifer, spiny skeletons of sponges and of echinoderms.

After the discovery, scientists started thinking about the way sea creatures ended up in a glob of resinated amber that comes out of trees. One of the proposed ideas is that the forest was located near the coast. Thus the primitive microorganisms, such as the primitive plankton, could have been carried inland by storm that generated powerful winds or waters that flooded the forest, informs NewScientist.

"This discovery will deepen our understanding of these lost marine species as well as providing precious data about the coastal environment of western France during the Cretaceous Period," the scientist say. It is worth mentioning that the Cretaceous Period lasted from 145 to 65 million years ago.

According to Jean-Paul Saint Martin, scientist working at the National History Museum, and the co-author of the study, the finding challenges theories regarding the development of these primitive organisms and vindicates the study carried out by molecular geneticists.

With the help of so-called "molecular clocks," scientists, working in the field of biochemistry, move back in time to map out the point when the evolutionary process of certain species of plants and animals separated into a variety of branches.

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