Molten Lava Fossilized This Plant Down to Its Single Cells

When this Jurassic plant was smothered in molten lava one hundred and eighty million years ago, it was almost instantly fossilised—in incredible cellular detail.

In fact, the fern—seen here in cross section through the stem—was preserved right down to the level of chromosomes, which can be seen frozen in the process of cell division. The sample was collected in the 1960s and left in a drawer at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, but was recently analyzed and found to be a rare example of wonderfully detailed preservation. The scientists hope that there may be more, even more interesting, objects preserved in a similar way, too—just waiting for us to find them. [Science via New Scientist]

Image by Benjamin Bomfleur