Four groups of organic molecules that are preserved in the fossil records are:
Nucleic acids â€“ This includes DNA and RNA and can tell us about the dead organisms that left them behind. DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) is the main genetic material of humans, which contains all the information about the humanâ€™s genotype and phenotype. The genes contained in this double-helical structure are transferred down the progenies through the semi-conservative mode of replication. One of the kinds of RNA is mRNA. The mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) is referred to as a copy of the protein-coding gene that behaves as a template for the generation of proteins. In a sample of total cellular RNA, the biotechnology approach that can be used for identifying ferritin mRNA includes the uses of agarose gel electrophoresis. The electrophoresis process helps in separating the RNA samples based on their size. The separated RNA is then incubated with single-stranded molecules of DNA that are complementary to ferritin mRNA. Both RNA and DNA are very fragile since DNA and RNA have very reactive bonds that can be easily hydrolyzed. These molecules start degrading as soon as the cell dies; hence it is difficult to preserve them.
Carbohydrates â€“ Essential nutrients are those which the body needs to acquire from the food source, as these are not present in the body. Carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, and dietary minerals are examples of essential nutrients. These nutrients enhance the bod’sy functioning cell and tissue growth and repairing of damaged tissues due to the presence of adequate nutrients in the body. The other major characteristic of nutrients is to provide the transmembrane signaling to the surrounding cells. Carbohydrates consist of monosaccharides and polysaccharides. They have starch and cellulose found mainly in plants. They are also more chemically resistant to decay, but other microorganisms might take them up for their use.
Proteins â€“ Proteins are the hard workers that enable the occurring of most biological activities within a cell. These activities are cell growth, gene expression, nutrient uptake, motility, proliferation, apoptosis, and intercellular communication. In the given case, the proteins can be playing a role in cilia biogenesis or IFT-intraflagellar transport. These are most abundant in animals, but any species can have the twenty amino acids that constitute proteins. They form complex 3-D shapes that allow hydrogen bonding. They are more rigid compounds than nucleic acids and can be preserved better.
Lipids â€“ These are the most decay-resistant molecules and highly soluble in water. This organic compound is produced by all types of cells and used in energy storage.
Conditions for formation of Molecular fossils:
Since most of these molecules are prone to some decay, it is best to preserve them in isolated areas. Though different molecules have different conditions for preservation, the common thing amongst all of them is that they need minimum contact with air and microorganisms. The best place to find such fossils are fossil shells and bones, muds and shales rich in organic matter, coal, and kerogens. Kerogens are insoluble and amorphous polymeric material found in the geological record.
Application of Molecular Fossils:
Molecular fossils are useful in differentiating between sources of rocks amongst marine, terrestrial, and lacustrine.
Marine source rocks â€“ They have a high diversity of molecular fossils, especially sterols. There are certain alkenes, carotenoids, and ketones that are present only in marine source rocks.
Lacustrine source rocks â€“ They are characterized by the presence of botryococcane, abundant carotenoids, and cyanobacterial products.
Terrestrial source rocks â€“ These are derived from terrestrial plants as part of durable cutin and waxes in plant leaves.
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