A 50 million year old snapshot of leaf chemistry

Image of a leafUnderstanding the past lets us rationalise the present and plan for the future. For the trivial it can be pretty simple, what time you need to leave home to get to the office, or when you’ll next need to buy milk are pretty easy to predict based on past events. For more complex systems, over larger timescales, things can get a little more complicated.

Studying the chemical processes and biological pathways in plant life is crucial if we are to understand the living world around us; how it was, how it is and how it will be. Researchers from University of Manchester, Diamond Light Source and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource have studied the metallome of a 50 million year old leaf and remarkably have shown that the metal distribution correlates to the original leaf biochemistry.

Using synchrotron rapid scanning X-ray fluorescence (SRS-XRF), a non-destructive technique, the team have revealed for the first time the metallome of a fossilised plant. “This opens up the possibility to study part of the biochemistry of ancient plants, so in the future, it may enable us [to] observe the changes, if any, in the use of metals by the plant kingdom through geological time” explains Dr Nicholas Edwards, lead author of the study.

You can read more about the team’s research by downloading their open access article below, or for information on the research project and quotes from the scientific team, head over to the University of Manchester’s website.

Leaf metallome preserved over 50 million years
N. P. Edwards, P. L. Manning, U. Bergmann, P. L. Larson, B. E. van Dongen, W. I. Sellers, S. M. Webb, D. Sokaras, R. Alonso-Mori, K. Ignatyev, H. E. Barden, A. van Veelen, J. Anné, V. M. Egerton and R. A. Wogelius
Metallomics, 2014, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C3MT00242J

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