University of Leicester academics in ‘rotten fish’ exhibit at prestigious national exhibition

Posted by pt91 at Jul 05, 2011 11:31 AM |
Pioneering Leicester research on fish and fossils to be presented at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition between 5-10 July
University of Leicester academics in ‘rotten fish’ exhibit at prestigious national exhibition

A sequence of images showing how the characterstic features of the body of amphioxus, a close living relative of vertebrates, change during decay. (Purnell, Sansom, Gabbott)

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 5 July 2011

Images available from University of Leicester Press Office via pressoffice@le.ac.uk

A novel study by University of Leicester academics is one of the 21 research projects selected from across the UK to be part of the prestigious Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2011.

The annual Exhibition showcases the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology research and gives an opportunity to interact with the science that is shaping our world.

Dr Sarah Gabbott and Professor Mark Purnell, of the Department of Geology, will present their innovative method for studying and extracting information from 500 million year old fossils by rotting their primitive close relatives in the laboratory. This has helped to create a clearer picture of what our early ancestors would have looked like.

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A sequence of images showing how the characterstic features of the body of amphioxus, a close living relative of vertebrates, change during decay. Colours are caused by interference between the experimental equipment and the light illuminating the specimens. (Purnell, Sansom, Gabbott)

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), this on-going research is the only geological exhibit at the event. The study highlights the new approach to the study of early vertebrate fossils and contributes to the understanding of our place in evolution.

Also taking part in the exhibition with researchers are Rob Sansom, David Baines, Vince Williams, Laurent Darras, and Leicester undergraduates including Ben Moorhouse, Joe Keating and Rowan Dejardin.

Sarah Gabbott commented: “This is not the most glamorous of experiments, watching (and unfortunately smelling) how primitive fish-like vertebrates rot but our results are allowing us to reconstruct what our earliest ancestors looked like over half a billion years ago.”

Mark Purnell explained further: “Our experiments have provided us with a set of photofit-like images allowing us to decipher and correctly identify features in fossils. Our ability to flesh out what our earliest vertebrate ancestors looked like and correctly place them on the Tree of Life is critical to understanding whether our earliest relatives evolved in a burst of complexity or gradually over millions of years”

Taking place between 5-10 July at Carlton House Terrace in London, the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is the Royal Society’s main public event of the year. The event is free and open to all and visitors are encouraged to interact with the researchers.
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The smelly remains of a hagfish after 20 days of rotting. Only the skull, primitive 'backbone' (notochord) and parts of the liver are left. The patterns of decay help interpretation of important fossil taxa. (Sansom, Purnell, Gabbott)
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A sequence of images showing how the characteristic features of the body of amphioxus, a close living relative of vertebrates, change during decay. Colours are caused by interference between the experimental equipment and the light illuminating the specimens. (Purnell, Sansom, Gabbott)

You can watch a video of rotting primitive fish here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdTH6yIkFxw

Exhibit info can be found at: http://royalsociety.org/summer-science/2011/rotten-fish/

General information about all the exhibits can be found at http://royalsociety.org/summer-science/2011/

Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact:

Dr Sarah Gabbott, Tel, +44 116 252 3636, sg21@le.ac.uk

Dr Mark Purnell, Tel +44 116 252 3645, mark.purnell@le.ac.uk

Nicola Kane

Press and Public Relations

The Royal Society, London

Tel: 020 7451 2508

Email: nicola.kane@royalsociety.org

1.       A press preview will take place between 3pm – 5pm on Monday 4 July. Please contact the Royal Society press office to make arrangements to attend this.

2.       Images available on request.

3.       General info:  The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition showcases cutting edge research in science and engineering from across the UK. It is held annually at the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science. Follow the Summer Science Exhibition on Twitter at www.twitter.com/summerscience using the hashtag #SSE2011.

4.       Exhibition opening times:  The Exhibition is located in the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5 AG and takes place from Tuesday 5 July to Sunday 10 July 2011. Open Tuesday 5 July 10am – 9pm, Wednesday 6 – Thursday 7 July 10am – 5pm, Friday 8 July 10am – 9pm, Saturday 9 July 10am – 6pm, Sunday 10 July 11am – 6pm.  The event is FREE and open to the public.  Further information can be found at http://royalsociety.org/summer-science/2011/.

5.       The Royal Society is the UK’s national academy of science.  Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as a provider of independent scientific advice, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. Our expertise is embodied in the Fellowship, which is made up of the finest scientists from the UK and beyond.  Our goals are to:

·       Invest in future scientific leaders and in innovation

·       Influence policymaking with the best scientific advice

·       Invigorate science and mathematics education

·       Increase access to the best science internationally

·       Inspire an interest in the joy, wonder and excitement of scientific discovery

For further information please visit http://royalsociety.org. Follow the Royal Society on Twitter at http://twitter.com/royalsociety or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/theroyalsociety.

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