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September 30 2012
A rare find of stunningly intact fossils of prehistoric plankton will allow researchers to study how the tiny marine organisms cope with rising acidity in the oceans.
Finding such intact specimens of coccolithophores, micrometre-sized marine plankton encased in discs of calcium carbonate, is a real coup — searching for fossils of calcified single-celled organisms often yields only skeletal bits that have fallen to the ocean floor.
“Breaking open undisturbed 56-million-year-old sediment samples, we can image coccolithophores — right down to their intracellular vesicles — using a scanning electron microscope,” said Paul Bown, a palaeoceanographer at University College London, who this week presented images of the fossils at the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World in Monterey, California.
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