Chemical clues illuminate fossil plant relationships

To reconstruct relationships among extinct plants and animals, paleontologists often compare genetic sequences from distinct organisms or analyze differences in fossil shapes. But both techniques have limitations: DNA does not last more than about a million years in the rock record, so genetic comparisons are typically limited to relatively recent species; and finding fossils intact enough to use for shape comparisons can be difficult. In a recent study, scientists describe a new technique that could help get around these issues — for some plants at least — using molecular remnants that are more robust than DNA and are preserved in fossil leaves.

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Lucas Joel

Lucas Joel was EARTH's 2015 summer intern.

Joel (www.lvjwriting.com) is a freelance science journalist. He has a master's in paleontology from the University of California, Riverside, and is currently based in Boulder, Colo. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 06:00