UCL News


UCL in the News: Sea creatures had a thing for bling

8 May 2008

Lewis Dartnell, 'New Scientist' Call it extraterrestrial bling.

Fossilised sea creatures have been found that coated themselves in tiny diamonds created in the asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs.

The fossils were discovered by a team led by Michael Kaminski [UCL Earth Sciences]. They went to the Umbria-Marche basin of eastern Italy in search of the fossilised remains of deep-ocean creatures called agglutinated foraminifera. These amoeba-like single-celled organisms build protective "tests" around themselves by sticking together sediment grains from the sea floor. …

The foraminifera tests they found were mainly composed of common minerals such as quartz, but some of the component grains were unusually rich in metals such as nickel and cobalt, indicating that they had originated in outer space.

Even more surprising were microscopic granules of carbon, no more than 10 micrometres across, which were subsequently identified as diamonds. "The foraminifera were deliberately using extraterrestrial diamonds in their shells," says Kaminski. …