******Bone marrow still juicy after 10 million years ******
Bone marrow still juicy after 10 million years
While literary types try to "suck the marrow out of life", palaeontologists would like to extract it from fossil bones.
Now Maria McNamara of University College Dublin, Ireland, has found the first fossilised bone marrow in frogs that lived 10 million years ago. The discovery shows that decay-prone tissue can survive for an astonishingly long time, even in small amphibian bones.
McNamara was studying frog fossils from Spanish sulphur mines when she noticed bone marrow in a bone that had split. Curious, she examined other fossils and found preserved marrow in 10 per cent of the adult frogs. Electron microscopy verified that the original structure of the marrow was preserved, as well as giant cells called osteoclasts found at the boundary between bone and marrow.
The fossil marrow consists of sulphur-rich organic material, and tests for amino acids, proteins and, tantalisingly, DNA are in progress (Geology, vol 34, p 641).
The find suggests that palaeontologists may have missed marrow residues inside many more intact fossils. "People never tend to look inside, because the bones are so valuable for science that you don't want to smash them up," says McNamara.