The team of paleontologists, geochemists and physicists investigated the chemistry of exceptionally preserved fossil leaves from the Eocene-aged "Green River Formation" of the western United States by bombarding the fossils with X-rays produced by synchrotron particle accelerators.

According to sources, the combination of synchrotron capabilities allowed the team to produce detailed images of where the various elements of the periodic table were located within living and fossil leaves, and it also allowed them to show how these elements were combined with other elements.

The data from a suite of other techniques has reportedly led the team to conclude that the chemistry of the fossil leaves is not wholly sourced from the surrounding environment, as has previously been suggested, but represents that of the living leaves. Another modern-day connection suggests a way in which these specimens are preserved over millions of years.

According to the sources, the scientists believe that it is copper that may have contributed in preserving by acting as a ‘natural’ biocide, slowing down the usual microbial breakdown that would destroy delicate leaf tissues.


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