Total Pageviews

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Asterids in Amber: "Electric" and Possibly Poisonous Fossil Flowers of the Dominican Republic

      The publication of an article in Nature Plants on 2/15/16, has resulted in some amusing autocorrect texts about this clade of flowering plants of Asteridae, (or asterids) which also includes coffee, potatoes, strychnine, and curareTwo newly discovered and very well-preserved fossil flowers (just less than 20 mm long) are believed to part of a new genus and species, Strychnos electri sp nov, which are of Tertiary age, possibly quite toxic, and exceptionally well-preserved in amber.




         The discovery of the fossils in the Dominican Republic 






by the lead author, George O. Poinar, Jr., in 1986, and subsequent study by Strychnos expert, Lena Struwe, has resulted in numerous articles citing the "asteroid" family or the genus and species name "Strychnos electricity." 




            The latter autocorrection is perhaps more forgiveable since the researchers named the new species after the Greek word for amber ("elektron"), the fossilized resin of trees. In around 600 B.C. Thales of Miletus writes about amber becoming charged by rubbing, describing static electricity.



        "The researchers had to date the flower by proxy by examining other life forms found in the amber cache, including the common single-celled organisms known as foraminifera and coccoliths. There are distinct evolutionary and population changes in foraminifera and coccoliths over time, and paleontologists often use these tiny animals to place fossils during specific geological periods."      

            The quote above from this article describes using microscopic foraminifera 




      and coccoliths (here in Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) view




to help date the Dominican Republic amber. However, those two marine fauna are less likely to be found near flowering land plants. It is more likely, though, on a small island nation to see microscopic marine fossils together with land fossils in one amber suite.

     Amber suite, sweet amber! (ever the sap). . .

Where do your thoughts resin-ate?

Steph






34 comments:

  1. I hear electron microscopes work well in examining amber sections.

    If I would have been the father of female triplets I would have named them Electra, Amber and Astrid (or Asterid... but not Asteroid!).

    LegoSaysMourningBecomesElectraAndElectriBecomesElectricity

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lego, there are some cool images of amber out there as well as some creepy ones of insects encased in the resin.

      Delete
    2. Being father of triplets, especially those triplets, could have been pretty electric!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Paul,
      J.D.'s early-blooming parentheses (((()))) remind me of a mid-cross-section of an onion before it becomes bloomin'.

      LegoLeopoldBloomin'SeymourGlassOnion

      Delete
    2. Paul, the early-blooming parentheses were new to me. Thanks.

      Agreed Lego; never heard that "Glass Onion" version before. Thanks.

      Might you make something of this >>> . . . . . . . . . . . .?

      Delete
  3. Ice in Duluth, MN. I believe this is part of the reason Zoë says she will never live in MN again.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Replies
    1. Right you are on both fronts, Paul. Thanks for the internal link!

      Delete
  5. Now, you see, I would have guessed this was something like this (1:15).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, those leathery leaves seem much more preservable than the delicate parts of Strychnos electri

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. Might take awhile though.

      I've not see many flower parts in amber.

      Mosquitoes and other insects are more often trapped flying into that tree resin. Now, how to attract them purposefully to the trees. . .? Maple sugar trees planted further south?

      Delete
  7. This looks like fun!

    I spent a decade looking at satellite imagery and aerial photographs in the oil biz and can confirm eye fatique as an issue. I did get good at seeing things in stereo though!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Replies
    1. It seems the blood-sucking species of midges aren't the cacao pollinators. Anyway, cocoa may be doomed by climate change and other pests, and then can we get rid of the midges?

      As long as we're talking about the ethics of eliminating ubiquitous species, I'd like to put in a word for repealing the law of gravity. We've had enough broken bones and plane crashes, not to mention our inability to reduce the cost of putting payloads into orbit. All in favor, say aye. Good, now that's out of the way.

      Delete
    2. It's all very existential. Except gravity. Sure, repeal gravity except when throwing up (throwing down?) Ay, there's the gauntlet!

      No water in Zoë's town in Ethiopia for over 2 weeks. How long can humans survive without water? Concerns both about the drought and foot shortages in Africa. . .and worldwide. How about eliminating drought and food shortages, while we're at it!

      Delete
    3. Not to take anything away from the awfulness of the worst drought in 50 years, but five years ago, they had the worst drought in 60 years there. Can't seem to catch a break.

      Delete
    4. I think the drought 5 years ago hit Eastern Ethiopia more. This current drought is hitting Western Ethiopia quite severely. Watching the 2015 weather animation (see below), you can see why. . .

      Delete
  9. This animated world weather map for 2015 is mesmerizing. Clouds, cyclones, continents--I watched it twice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And, speaking of drought in Africa, the Sahara and Arabia certain stand out in that video. Ironic that areas with so much reliable, year-round solar energy available should also be known for oil.

      Delete
    2. It is quite ironic.

      Did you read about these large solar panels installed in Morocco?

      Delete
    3. More on the project from NPR, and on Wikipedia. The project is called "Noor", the Arabic word for "light", appropriately enough.

      Delete
    4. Yes. It's also the name that Lisa Halaby, daughter of Pan Am CEO Najeeb, took when she married King Hussein, to become the queen of Jordan.

      Delete
    5. "Finest white" -- beautiful description! (Having spent time with white sample paint chips, I saw no names as wonderful as this!).

      Delete
  10. Replies
    1. Interesting to make that video, too. What's up, Chuck?

      Space Oddity wins hands down (up?), of course.

      Delete
  11. New post on "ATLASGAL: Celebrating Holding Up New Images AND "Cool" ACRONYMS" is up.

    ReplyDelete