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Bacteria may play big role in forming fossils

Bacteria can build a biofilm that preserves a tissue's structure

By
4:03pm, November 24, 2008

Paleontologists were stunned when fossils appearing to belong to the soft-tissued embryos of marine creatures were unearthed in Chinese sediments a decade ago (SN: 2/7/98, p. 84).

Now, lab tests hint that a process of three stages, two of which directly involve bacteria common in marine sediments, can reproduce the same fossilization effect in modern embryos, say Rudy Raff, an evolutionary biologist at Indiana University in Bloomington.

First, the fragile embryonic tissues must end up in an oxygen-poor environment that shuts down autolysis, the enzym

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