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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Pigment Preserved in 162-Million-Year-Old Fossils
21 May 2012 3:00 pm
The fossilized ink sac of an ancient cephalopod—the group of tentacled invertebrates that includes today’s octopi, squid, and cuttlefish—still holds some of the ink pigment, a new study suggests. Researchers unearthed the 30-millimeter-long fossil (above) from 162-million-year-old rocks in the southern United Kingdom, about 40 kilometers east of Bristol. Images the scientists took with a scanning electron microscope reveal tiny, nearly spherical structures that are similar in size to structures in the ink of the modern-day cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis). But that physical similarity doesn’t prove the pigment in those structures is intact because minerals could have replaced the original particles. So the researchers conducted a variety of chemical tests, including placing samples of material scraped from the fossil in a solution that typically breaks down melanin pigments. In this case, the reaction generated two substances found only in eumelanin, a brownish-black form of the pigment that is also found in the ink of today’s cephalopods, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The new findings may help scientists identify eumelanin or its remnants in other fossils, such as feathers, scales, or skin—which may, in turn, shed light on the diverse roles of pigments in ancient organisms.
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