Scientists uncover the secret of how spider fossils formed

Soft shells are not well preserved – with the exception of some great sites around the world. There is a beautiful place in the south of France, where fossils of spiders weaving webs 22.5 million years ago were found.

Scientists say they have identified why many soft-bodied creatures such as spiders, insects and fish were buried and preserved. With such details in this particular rock formation in Aix-en-Provence. Extremely favorable conditions include substances produced by microalgae that will envelop the spider and induce a protective chemical change.

“Most life doesn’t turn into fossils,” said Alison Olcott, professor of geology and director of the University of Kansas Research Center, in a news release.

“It’s hard to fossilize. You have to die under very specific conditions, and one of the easiest ways to fossilize is to have hard parts like bones, horns and teeth. So, our record of life is thin, terrestrial bodies are,” said Olcott, lead author of the study published in Communications Earth and Environment Magazine, Life is like a spider’s wavy.

“But we have this extraordinary period of preservation when all the conditions are aligned for preservation to happen.”

Fluorescence gives clues

In his statement, Olcott said the discovery came thanks to the decision to examine spider fossils under a fluorescent microscope. These types of observations are not part of the standard protocol for examining fossils, but research The team thinks it might help them see more detail from the spider’s fossil, which mixes with the surrounding rock. Different elements in rock absorb UV light energy in a microscope and convert light at different wavelengths.

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“To our surprise, it glowed, and we became very interested in what makes this fossil glow chemically. If you look at a fossil on a rock, it is almost indistinguishable from the rock itself, but it glows with a different color. fluorescent range.”

“Not every geological sample shines on its own and shines — but when it does, it can be amazing and yield a wealth of information, says Olcott. Microscopic aquatic algae detected by a fluorescence microscope are known as diatom fossils, and when alive they emit a sulfur-rich substance that forms a layer of algae.

“These microalgae make balls sticky and sticky — that’s how they stick together,” he says.

The authors suggest that this substance coats the spider and promotes a process called sulfur, which stabilizes and maintains the spider’s fragile body.

“Essentially, microalgae chemistry and spider chemistry work together to achieve this unique conservation,” he said.

Olcott said the discovery could help geologists find other extraordinary fossils from this time period in other parts of the world.

“If diatomaceous mats help bring about this remarkable fossil preservation, we should be able to explore more units of diatomite, the diatom-rich rock that exists globally today, in search of more of these deposits.

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