UV Light Shows The Colors of 5 Million Year Old Seashell Fossils

by Owen James Burke

fossils

Researchers have identified 13 “new” species of cone snails after putting bleached-white snail shell fossils under UV lights to reveal their vibrant patterns. (Photo: Jonathan Hendricks via PLOS ONE)

Cone snails are a widely occurring snail with many subspecies, but for researchers studying their fossils, they have been difficult to distinguish, until recently. By placing shells under a UV light and reversing the colors, we can now see what these 4.8-6.6 million year old cone snail shells looked like in living color.

shells

(Photo: Jonathan Hendricks via PLOS ONE)

Between sunlight and oxidation, all shells eventually turn white. Somehow, a UV light can expose patterns that no longer exist in natural light, but scientists can’t yet explain why.

Read more at Smithsonian Mag. — OJB

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