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科学美国人60秒: 通过腐肉可洞察石化过程

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Rotting Flesh Offers Insight on Fossilization

通过腐肉可洞察石化过程

The fossil record is far from being a complete library of everything that's ever lived.

化石记录不止是曾经存活生物的藏书阁.

"The vast, vast majority of everything that's ever lived has completely decayed away, bones and all. So fossilization is a very rare occurrence." Duncan Murdock, a research fellow at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

绝大多数曾经生活过的东西都已经完全腐烂了,骨头和所有的东西都消失了。因此石化现象是非常罕见的。邓肯·默多克,牛津大学自然历史博物馆的研究员。

"But then if you play the numbers game and think about how many organisms have lived, then fossilization is inevitable, that some things will get into the fossil record."

但如果你玩数字游戏,想想有曾经存活的生物,那么石化是不可避免的,有些东西会变成化石”

But what parts of an organism fossilize…and in which stage of decomposition…can vary. Meaning it can be hard to reconstruct a living animal from what's represented in rock. Plus, most of the fossil record is bones and teeth. To find any evidence of the soft-tissue of ancient animals is incredibly rare.

但是有机体的哪些部分会石化......以及在哪个阶段会分解......这是可以变化的。这意味着从岩石中发掘出的东西,很难重建动物活体。另外,大部分化石记录都是骨头和牙齿。因此,寻找古代动物软组织的证据是非常罕见的。

So, to learn more about the process of decay and fossilization that can preserve soft tissue, Murdock and his team dissect marine animals, like hagfish and lampreys, as they lie rotting in the lab. The study of how organisms become preserved is called taphonomy. And it can stink.

因此,为了更多地了解保存软组织的腐烂和石化过程,默多克和他的团队解剖了盲鳗、七鳃类等海洋动物,当时它们已经在实验室里腐烂。发出臭味。

"Yeah I mean it's certainly a very smelly place to work sometimes." Smelly, but it gives them a step-by-step look at how creatures' bodies change as they decay.

我的意思是,有时候这是一个很难闻的地方。”臭气熏天,但它让他们一步一步地观察生物的身体是如何随着腐烂而变化的。

"The first signs the animal is decaying, is the very softest tissues like the guts and eyes start to decay away, and then fine structures like the gills. And then things like the fins start to fall off, and you see the skin falling off. And then eventually all that you're left with are some little bits of cartilage, and remnants of the muscle blocks."

动物正在腐烂的第一个迹象是,像内脏和眼睛这样最柔软的组织开始腐烂,然后像鳃这样的精细结构。”然后,像鱼鳍这样的东西开始脱落,你会看到皮肤脱落,最后剩下的就是一些软骨碎片,以及肌肉块的残留物。

They break down their work in the journal Palaeontology—and make the case for why rotting flesh may give a fresh look at the fossil record. Because what you don’t find—and the degraded state of the material you do find—have their own stories to tell about the history of life on Earth.

他们的研究结果发表在《古生物学》期刊中——并说明为什么腐烂肉体,这可能会重新审视化石记录。因为你找不到的东西——以及你找到的材料的退化状态——都有他们自己的故事来讲述地球上的生命过程。

Rotting Flesh Offers Insight on Fossilization

The fossil record is far from being a complete library of everything that's ever lived.

"The vast, vast majority of everything that's ever lived has completely decayed away, bones and all. So fossilization is a very rare occurrence." Duncan Murdock, a research fellow at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

"But then if you play the numbers game and think about how many organisms have lived, then fossilization is inevitable, that some things will get into the fossil record."

But what parts of an organism fossilize…and in which stage of decomposition…can vary. Meaning it can be hard to reconstruct a living animal from what's represented in rock. Plus, most of the fossil record is bones and teeth. To find any evidence of the soft-tissue of ancient animals is incredibly rare.

So, to learn more about the process of decay and fossilization that can preserve soft tissue, Murdock and his team dissect marine animals, like hagfish and lampreys, as they lie rotting in the lab. The study of how organisms become preserved is called taphonomy. And it can stink.

"Yeah I mean it's certainly a very smelly place to work sometimes." Smelly, but it gives them a step-by-step look at how creatures' bodies change as they decay.

"The first signs the animal is decaying, is the very softest tissues like the guts and eyes start to decay away, and then fine structures like the gills. And then things like the fins start to fall off, and you see the skin falling off. And then eventually all that you're left with are some little bits of cartilage, and remnants of the muscle blocks."

They break down their work in the journal Palaeontology—and make the case for why rotting flesh may give a fresh look at the fossil record. [Mark A. Purnell et al, Experimental analysis of soft‐tissue fossilization: opening the black box] Because what you don’t find—and the degraded state of the material you do find—have their own stories to tell about the history of life on Earth.

—Christopher Intagliat


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