Bacterial discovery solves 20-year-old molecular paleontology mystery – EurekAlert (press release)

A fatty molecule thought to be unique to flowering plants has turned up in bacteria skimmed from the Adriatic Sea. The surprising finding solves a 20-year-old paleontological mystery and could affect how scientists interpret the presence of this molecule in the ecological record. Where once it suggested the presence of land and flowering plants, it could indicate marine or freshwater-dwelling bacteria instead.

The molecule in question, isoarborinol, is a fatty molecule, or lipid, whose only known biological sources were certain flowering plants, or angiosperms. For this reason, when geobiologists detect isoarborinol they assume flowering plants once flourished in that spot.

“Arborinol lipids can be preserved in sedimentary rocks for millions of years, so they can function as ‘molecular fossils’ that can inform us about the types of organisms and environments on early Earth,” said…

Read the full article from usatoday.com…

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