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ScienceShot: Cocoon Preserves Microbe for the Ages
ScienceNOW ^ | 3 December 2012 | Sid Perkins

Posted on 12/05/2012 11:52:21 PM PST by neverdem


Credit: Benjamin Bomfleur; (inset) Hans Kerp/Muenster University

Cocoons don't just protect developing eggs and larvae; they can also preserve fossils for hundreds of millions of years. Scientists have discovered a 25-micrometer-long, teardrop-shaped protozoan (left) trapped in the wall of an egg case produced by a leech between 200 million and 215 million years ago. The Triassic-era relic's coiled stalk and large, horseshoe-shaped nucleus make it an ancient doppelgänger of the modern-day Vorticella (right), a group previously unknown in the fossil record, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As soft-bodied organisms, protozoans aren't typically preserved as fossils. But egg cases—the walls of which quickly harden from a protein-and-sugar-rich mucus secreted by the invertebrates—of leeches and their kin are surprisingly common, the researchers explain. Like amber, which starts out sticky and then hardens, the tiny egg cases (one produced by Hirudo medicinalis, the medicinal leech, inset) can trap and then preserve soft-bodied organisms that would otherwise be quickly lost to decomposition. Although a few teams have previously described small fossils, such as spores and microorganisms entombed in such egg cases, the cocoons have largely been ignored by paleontologists and could therefore serve as an unrecognized yet bountiful source of microbial fossils.

See more ScienceShots.

*Correction, 4 December: This article has been updated to reflect that the fossil, as well as the modern-day microorganism Vorticella, is a protozoan and not a bacterium.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: godsgravesglyphs; microbiology; paleomicrobiology; paleontology

1 posted on 12/05/2012 11:52:37 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem
Long ago, I remember seeing Vorticella under the microscope in High School. The top is vase-shaped, and has little cilia beating "food" into it. It ain't much of a critter, so I'm very impressed that a Vorticella look-alike can be coaxed from Triassic evidence.
2 posted on 12/06/2012 12:58:18 AM PST by Does so (Dims don't think ... they PLOT!)
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To: Does so

Being able to resurrect one of these paleogerms would be even more impressive — if it doesn’t turn out to be a factor of some terrible disease we have no modern means of dealing with.

3 posted on 12/06/2012 4:23:01 AM PST by HiTech RedNeck (How long before all this "fairness" kills everybody, even the poor it was supposed to help???)
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To: Mother Abigail; EBH; vetvetdoug; Smokin' Joe; Global2010; Battle Axe; null and void; ...
All Signs Indicate That This Flu Season Is Going To Be Brutal

FReepmail me if you want on or off my combined microbiology/immunology ping list.

4 posted on 12/06/2012 12:53:41 PM PST by neverdem ( Xin loi min oi)
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 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks neverdem.

Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.

5 posted on 12/06/2012 8:02:56 PM PST by SunkenCiv (
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