Friday Headlines: 11-15-13

Friday Headlines, November 15, 2013



Today’s round-up:

Physical evidence of bacterial activity from 3.5 billion years ago

Fossilized insects doing what?

Lava that keeps flowing and flowing and flowing


Evidence of 3.5-Billion-Year-Old Bacterial Ecosystems Found in Australia

Paleontologists usually look for and study body fossils – the remains of the actual bodies of dead organisms, like shells or skeletons – in their quest to better understand life in Earth’s remote past. But not all evidence comes from body fossils.

Another important source of information about past life is the study of tracks and traces. Tracks are the footprints or other marks left by an organism as it moves by. Traces are incidental marks left by an organism while it was doing something else. Organisms may leave characteristic marks in sediments while feeding, or its tail may drag while it walks by.

Some organisms affect the shape of the surface upon which they live. Even microorganisms like bacteria. They make lovely mats that completely coat and smooth the surface. These are called microbially induced sedimentary structures, or MISS. These mats can be fossilized. And that’s what scientists recently described from the Pilbara Region of Western Australia.

What’s especially cool about these rocks, from the Dresser Formation, is that they are about 3.5 billion years old. The implication is that life on Earth existed at that remote age (and had to then appear at an even older age).

We do already have some evidence of life predating these sediments, but it’s mostly geochemical. These rocks represent the oldest physical evidence of life on Earth.


Unfortunate Insects Fossilized at Their Most Intimate

Well, it was bound to happen. For billions of years, life on this planet has succeeded in reproducing itself, and for hundreds of millions of years, one of the dominant forms of life have been the insects. At some point, these animals had to have been caught and fossilized in the act of doing it. You know. It. Mating.

Caught in the act. Fossil froghoppers from the middle Jurassic of China were killed and preserved in the act of mating.
Caught in the act. Fossil froghoppers from the middle Jurassic of China were killed and preserved in the act of mating. Source: Li et al., 2013, PLOSone CC-attribution. Click image to read original paper.

The finding of these fossil froghoppers shows that over the last 165 million years the genital shape and mating position for froghoppers hasn’t changed!


Unique Sighting of Lava Solves Mystery

Lava and lava floes come in many varieties. Some are very runny, almost water-like. Others are clumpy and explosive. Most, despite their extreme temperatures, only flow for a few days then solidify.

There are however, some flows that may take almost a year to cool and solidify.

The Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano in Chile last erupted in April of 2012, resulting in flows of obsidian lava.

Map of Chile showing the position of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano (PCCVC). The red is southern volcanic zone of the Andes Mountains. Credit: Chiton magnificus CC 3.0 SA

Obsidian is volcanic glass, which is commonly used to make arrowheads and can be used to make some of the sharpest blades known to man.

In January of 2013, scientists visiting the volcano were shocked to find that the lava was still flowing. A cooled, outer crust of black rock shields the lava that still flows within, keeping it warm enough to remain molten at temperatures up to 900°C.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s