Fossils are rare things. Simply a fraction of animals get turned into stone. The vast majority of fossilized remains are hard tissues like bones, so receiving happens from the “squishy” bits of an organism is very unlikely. An even smaller fraction of fossils are from microscopic creatures. Given all this, a group of researchers have truly reached prize: the disclosure of microfossils that hold the remains of ancient single-cell animals that were alive approximately 1 billion years ago, preserved to such an incredible degree you can see the distinct cellular formations inside.
As reported in the journal Scientific Reports, health researchers analyzed information from the Cailleach Head Formation, in western Scotland. A billion years ago, such regions was the bottom of an ancient lagoon. For whatever reason, these ancient cells died, and rapidly after extinction certain solids in their organelles condensed, leaving an imprint of what they might have looked like.
Among the many microfossils discovered, the researchers found what gazes to be a type of ancient organism known as Glenobotrydion aenigmatis, a cyanobacterium that has internal structures more or less spread out within the cell. Of the other creatures the researchers could distinguish, some examine a little like the spheroidal coccus bacteria, and one cell looks like it could be eukaryotic, which are cells that have a nucleus separated from the respite, like humen, plants, and fungi.
The team, led by the University of Western Australia, credit the exceptional preservation of these fossils to the presence of two rare earth element phosphate minerals, monazite and xenotime. These minerals precipitate and hardened, fossilizing the cells and their insides. Other, older fossilized cells have been obtained before, but this discovery is the first reported instance of the improbably continued structure of inner cells thanks to rare earth element phosphates.
The scientists believe this preservation was possible because, due to local corrosion and drainage, the reservoir they lived in had a higher concentration of these minerals. Geological indication been demonstrated that the lakes in the region that were present a billion years ago were were provided by large-scale creeks with heavy sediment. Once in the pond, the elements were actively absorbed by these cells, otherwise, they wouldn’t be found inside the intracellular inclusions.
The team believes that these finds have pushed open the envelope when it comes to understanding microorganisms that lives in the Precambrian epoch. They could render evidences about the biology of these beings and likewise the ecosystem they lived in. They give us a brand-new window into the distant past.