Leicester UK (SPX) Nov 30, 2010
The mystery of how an abundance of fossils have been marvellously preserved for nearly half a billion years in a remote region of Africa has been solved by a team of geologists from the University of Leicester's Department of Geology.
They have established that an ancient wind brought life to the region - and was then instrumental in the preservation of the dead.
Sarah Gabbott, Jan Zalasiewicz and colleagues investigated a site near the Table Mountains in South Africa. Their findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Geology.
Sarah Gabbott said: "Near Table Mountain in South Africa lies one of the world's most mysterious rock layers. Just a few metres thick, and almost half a billion years old, it contains the petrified remains of bizarre early life-forms, complete with eyes and guts and muscles.
"We investigated why these animals are so marvellously preserved, when most fossils are just fragments of bone and shell? The answer seems to lie in a bitter wind, blowing off a landscape left devastated by a massive ice-cap."
Gabbott and Zalasiewicz added that microscopic analysis of the shale layers using a specially designed 'Petroscope', obtained with funding from the Royal Society, revealed remarkable and so far unique structures - myriads of silt grains, neatly wrapped in the remains of marine algae.
The authors state: "The silt grains are sedimentary aliens - much bigger than the marine mud flakes in which they are embedded. They could only have been blown by fierce glacial winds on to the sea surface from that distant landscape. Arriving thick and fast, they carried nutrients into the surface waters, fuelling its prolific life.
The deep waters, though, were overwhelmed by rotting, sinking vegetation, becoming stagnant and lifeless - ideal conditions to preserve the animal remains, down to their finest details. A cold wind, here, was key to both life and death."
This study is published in: Gabbott, S.E., Zalasiewicz, J., Aldridge, R.J. and Theron, H. 2010. Geology 38, 1103-1106.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
University of Leicester
Explore The Early Earth at TerraDaily.com
After dinosaurs, mammals went supersized
Albuquerque (UPI) Nov 26, 2010
When dinosaurs disappeared, the world's mammal species went on a growth binge and then hit an upper limit, all at about the same time, U.S. researchers say. Scientists at the University of New Mexico making a survey of big-mammal body size found mammal groups around the world tended to give rise to giant species at about the same time, ScienceNews.org reported Thursday. Such supe ... read more
Nearly 100 children hurt in China school stampede: report|
S.Korea activists urge rescue of dogs left on shelled island
Seven killed as bridge collapses in China
Chaotic quake-hit Haiti votes for a new leader
Columbia Engineering Team Discovers Graphene Weakness
New Way To Patch Holes in The Data Cloud
Branson launches glossy iPad magazine, 'Project'
Thales announces venture for Chinese in-flight systems
Water Resources Played Important Role In Patterns Of Human Settlement
US environmentalists urge bluefin tuna boycott
Freshwater Mussels Discovered In Urban Delaware River
Bluefin tuna gets scant relief at fisheries meet
Jack Pine Genetics Support A Coastal Glacial Refugium
US designates 'critical' polar bear habitat in Arctic
Operation IceBridge Completes Another Successful Antarctic Campaign
Delayed ice threatening Canada polar bears
Gene Transfer From Transgenic Crops: A More Realistic Picture
Predatory Bugs Can Save Cornfields
Argentina, China sign 'historic' farm trade deals
Australia admits defeat on 90-year NZealand apple ban
Flooding leaves deadly trail of destruction in Venezuela
6.6 magnitude quake near Japanese islands: USGS
NASA Compares Rainfall of 2010 and 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season Rainfall
Indonesia closes airport as volcano rumbles: official
Guinea closes borders
New north-south war in Sudan would cost 100 bln dlrs: study
South says six wounded in Sudan army attack
Niger air force chief held for plotting: government
Apes Unwilling To Gamble When Odds Are Uncertain
Jet-Lagged And Forgetful? It's No Coincidence
Single drop of blood could reveal age
Study Reveals Neural Basis Of Rapid Brain Adaptation
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|