Secrets of Cambrian period revealed

Helen Pilcher for

0608079b “Researchers have snuck an unprecedented glimpse at the dawn of multicellular life.

Using techniques borrowed from medicine and particle physics, palaeontologists have reconstructed the three-dimensional structure of tiny fossilized embryos that are more than 500 million years old.

The embryos, which are less than a millimetre across, have been well studied since their discovery in China and Siberia several decades ago. But researchers have either used scanning electron microscopy to study their surface, or chopped the fossils into thin slices in order to study the interior using light microscopy.

Donoghue’s team is the first to peer inside the embryos without destroying them in the process. And they get extremely detailed results to boot.”

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