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Fossilized seashells’ true colors revealed

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12:00pm, April 2, 2015

To the naked eye, fossilized seashells lack the colorful patterns of their living counterparts. But ultra­violet light can reveal some of the shells’ hues.

Jonathan Hendricks of San Jose State University in California examined 4.8-million- to 6.6-million-year-old cone snail shells from the Dominican Republic. Under UV light, organic compounds in the shells fluoresce (middle row) — though it’s unclear exactly which compounds are fluorescing.

Hendricks then re-created the shells’ pigmentation (bottom row), compared the patterns and identified snail species. Out of 28 species, 13 are previously unknown, Hendricks reported April 1 in PLOS ONE

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