By David Coppedge

Different species of the sea animals known as crinoids display different colors in these 350-million-year-old fossils. Ohio State University researchers have found organic compouds sealed within the pores of these fossilized animals' skeletons. Photo by William Ausich, courtesy of Ohio State University.

Different species of the sea animals known as crinoids display different colors in these 350-million-year-old fossils. Ohio State University researchers have found organic compouds sealed within the pores of these fossilized animals’ skeletons. Photo by William Ausich, courtesy of Ohio State University.

The oldest recovered biomolecules have been found in crinoid fossils – but are they really that old?

A trio of Ohio State researchers, publishing in Geology, described intact biological molecules in crinoids they found in Carboniferous strata in Ohio.  Rather than question the ability of fossils to maintain biological molecules for 350 million years, they used the evidence as support for evolution:

Results suggest that the preservation of diagnostic organic molecules is much more common that previously realized, and that preserved organic molecules may provide an independent method to unravel phylogenetic relationships among echinoderms and, perhaps, other fossilized organisms.

The press release from Ohio State shows the crinoids (sea lilies) in situ in the rock, clearly distinguishable by color.  Analysis of the material in the colored specimens suggests that the molecules are quinones, used by the animals for coloration or as toxins to deter predators….

 

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