PHOTOS: "Invisible" Ancient Bugs Seen by Hi-Tech X-Ray

PHOTOS:
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March 19, 2009--This ancient fly, dubbed Trichomyia lengleti, is one of a handful of bugs added to a new online database of "digital fossils."

Paleontologists from the European Synchrotron Research Facility in France used high-energy x-rays to peer inside 640 pieces of opaque, fossilized amber that date to the Cretaceous period, 145 to 65 million years ago.

The fossils were found in 2008 in from the Charentes region of southwestern France. Until recently, fossils inside opaque amber were invisible to paleontologists. But the new accelerator technology revealed unprecedented views of 350 previously invisible insects, animals, and plantswhich could previously only be studied from fossilized mud imprints.

(Related story: "Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber.") Using x-rays for paleontology is a new and important technique for seeing inside fossils that you cant cut or break open, said researcher Paul Tafforeau.

"When we are dealing with fossils we have to study them, but we also have to preserve them."

--Graeme Stemp-Morlock
—Image courtesy Paul Tafforeau/European Synchrotron Research Facility
 
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