Microfossils of the future

Chen, Jun-Yan et.al. «Phase contrast synchrotron X-ray microtomography of Ediacaran (Doushantuo) metazoan microfossils: Phylogenetic diversity and evolutionary implications». Precambrian Research 173.1-4 (2009). 191-200. Article of the Future version <http://articleofthefuture.com/S0301926809000953/>. 22 January 2014.

While this paleontology article shares many of the methods with, for example, materials science, its writing style is markedly different. The papers I have read from experimental sciences just report on measurements in advanced experiments. This paper reports on an experiment that used x-ray microtomography equipment and chemical solutions, but there is a lot more interpretation and argument here.

After the research highlights (including links to a timeline and a «litho unit», apparently records of a certain locale from  international databases), the abstract and the introduction, a section of «Past studies» follows. Section three is the Geological setting, using an effective combination of photography and drawing to explain geological strata at the site.

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A short fourth section on Taphonomy is also included before the common Materials and Methods, Results, and Discussion.

I note that the number of fossil specimen studied is not given, only a vague «several dozen acid residue specimens were selected.» In many disciplines, that would be a grave omission, as the number would say something about the reliability of the data.

The results is given as descriptions of three groups of similarly structured microfossils, which are interpreted as embryos by comparing them to other known cell structures.

In the discussion, other possible interpretations are first ruled out using different kinds of arguments, and then the evolutionary implications of the interpretations are discussed.

As microphotography is the method used, several plates of photographs are included. In the «future» version, one of these plates is made «interactive,» here meaning that when the reader rolls the mouse over a photograph, its caption becomes visible adjacent to the image.

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The reference section also contains 3-D photographs of the embryos, and even films of a computer simulation of each embryo pivoting slowly.

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