Sci­en­tists have found a 99 mil­lion-year-old snail in am­ber

Tehran Times - - SCIENCE -

Of all the pre­his­toric crea­tures to find trapped in am­ber, we never would have ex­pected a snail.

But that’s ex­actly what pa­le­on­tol­o­gists have found - so per­fectly pre­served that its del­i­cate shell is in­tact, and pre­his­toric soft snail tis­sues have been ob­served for the first time.

En­cased in 99 mil­lion-year-old am­ber from Myan­mar, the snails hail from the Cre­ta­ceous, when some of the world’s most beloved di­nosaurs, such as T. rex, ve­loci­rap­tor and tricer­atops trod the Earth.

Their mor­phol­ogy sug­gests that they are an­ces­tors of the Cy­clophori­dae fam­ily of ter­res­trial snails. This makes them not just the old­est snails ever found in am­ber - it would also put them among the old­est cy­clophoroideans found in Asia.

Snails, as you prob­a­bly know, are ex­traor­di­nar­ily frag­ile. Their bod­ies are soft and squishy, and their ex­oskele­tons - also known as their shells - are brit­tle.

“An­cient tree resin has ex­cep­tional preser­va­tion po­ten­tial, cap­tur­ing the finest of de­tails of fos­sil or­gan­isms mil­lions of years old in per­fect 3-D space - so much so that they ap­pear as though they just be­came trapped in the resin yes­ter­day,” palaeon­tol­o­gist Jef­frey Stil­well of Monash Univer­sity in Aus­tralia told John Pick­rell at Na­tional Geo­graphic.

Be­cause the snail is so young, it’s dif­fi­cult to pos­i­tively iden­tify, al­though it has sev­eral mor­pho­log­i­cal fea­tures that are com­pa­ra­ble to those seen on both fos­sil and liv­ing Cy­clophori­dae species, such as an op­er­cu­lum, a sort of “lid” the snail uses to seal its shell.

What’s per­haps even more in­ter­est­ing is that the snail was likely alive when it was en­cased in the am­ber, its body stretched and dis­torted, with an air bub­ble around its head.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iran

© PressReader. All rights reserved.