Gingers have been around for 10 million years, reveals a new study.
Irish scientists have found fragments of ginger pigment molecules in fossilized frogs.
University College Cork (UCC) paleontologists discovered molecular evidence of phaeomelanin, the pigment that produces ginger coloration, in the amphibians dating back 10 million years.
They say their findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, will enable scientists to better reconstruct the original colors of extinct organisms.
The research was led by Dr. Tiffany Slater and Professor Maria McNamara of UCC’s School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences.
They worked with an international team of scientists from Lund University, Sweden. Fujita Health University in Japan and Linyi University, China.
Dr. Slater said: “This finding is so exciting because it puts paleontologists in a better place to detect different melanin pigments in many more fossils.
“This will paint a more accurate picture of ancient animal color and will answer important questions about the evolution of colors in animals.
“Scientists still don’t know how – or why – phaeomelanin evolved because it is toxic to animals, but the fossil record might just unlock the mystery.”
The team performed a series of lab experiments on black, ginger, and white feathers to track how phaeomelanin pigments degrade during the fossilization process, which backs up their interpretations of the fossil chemistry.
Study senior author McNamara said: “Fossils are invariably altered by the ravages of heat and pressure during burial, but that doesn’t mean that we lose all original biomolecular information.
“Our fossilization experiments were the key to understanding the chemistry of the fossils, and prove that traces of biomolecules can survive being cooked during the fossilization process.”
She added: “There is huge potential to explore the biochemical evolution of animals using the fossil record when we account for chemical changes during fossilization.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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