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Last modified: Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Embryos Tell Story of Earth's Earliest Animals
Science, Technology, Physics, Space News
April 10

Embryos Tell Story of Earth's Earliest Animals

Rudolf Raff, a biology professor at Indiana University Bloomington, led a group of researchers -- including Elizabeth Raff, his wife and chairperson of the IU Department of Biology -- in a study that to explain what conditions are most likely to lead to the fossilization of early animal embryos. Over the past 12 years, there have been numerous reports of animal embryo fossils, but as Raff says, "The fossils look great. The problem is, if you know anything about embryos, their fossilization just doesn't seem likely. It's like trying to fossilize soap bubbles. Some investigators showed that these fossils are being preserved with calcium phosphate, but they haven't explained how embryos could survive long enough for that to happen. We do that." Using two sea urchin species as models, Raff said that the team wanted to find what conditions would allow a dead embryo to be preserved for about a month, enough time for it to be encased in minerals.

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