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Images: A Well-Preserved Fossilized Fern

ancient fern microstructure
The tiny structures inside this fossilized fern, including chromosomes and nuclei, were stunningly preserved by a hydrothermal brine seep that rapidly mineralized.
(Image: © Benjamin Bomfleur)

Immortal fern

fossil fern

(Image credit: Benjamin Bomfleur)

A fossil fern from 180 million years ago was recently unearthed in Sweden. It was so stunningly preserved that its nuclei and chromosomes were visible under a microscope.

Preserved nuclei

fern under a microscope

(Image credit: Benjamin Bomfleur)

Under a microscope, the pith in the cells reveal preserved nuclei and nucleoli.

Stem preservation

fossilized fern under a microscope

(Image credit: Benjamin Bomfleur)

Cutting through the stem of the fossilized fern revealed nuclei in the ground tissue of the pith

Intact cells

fossil fern under a microscope

(Image credit: Benjamin Bomfleur)

Here, another view of cells in the fern, with nuclei clearly visible.

Glowing nuclei

fossil fern under a micrsocope

(Image credit: Bomfleur, McLoughlin and Vajda)

Here, the preserved nuclei are revealed under synchrotron radiation microscopy in a glowing blue hue.

Similar size

A fossil fern under a microscope

(Image credit: Benjamin Bomfleur)

Compared to nuclei of the modern-day cinammon fern (right), the nuclei of the ancient fern (left) are comparable in size.

Lookalikes

fossil fern under a microscope

(Image credit: Benjamin Bomfleur)

Here, another view of the very similar nuclei. The fact that the nuclei and genetic content are similar between the two suggests not much has changed evolutionarily for this family of plants in 180 million years.

Living fossil

 fossil fern under a microscope

(Image credit: Benjamin Bomfleur)

A Japanese royal fern, Osmunda japonica, growing on Mount Takao, Japan, is a close relative of the extinct fern.

Royal fern

the rootstock of the royal fern

(Image credit: Stephen McLoughlin)

The rootstuck of a royal fern (Osmunda regalis) found growing in Lund, Sweden. The royal fern is a close relative to its Jurassic predecessor.