Microscope donation from ZEISS enables examination of valuable specimens in National Museums of Kenya (NMK), Nairobi
“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to examine the fossil, which was discovered and stored at the Museums in 1989,” said Dr Vignolini, whose research group studies plant structures and how they manipulate light to obtain brilliant and iridescent colours. Pollia is a good example, because its fruits are a striking example of iridescent colouration in plants.
When the researchers arrived, Dr Fredrick Manthi’s team from the National Museums helped them to find and identify the fossil. The scientists were surprised to find the specimens so well preserved, with an intact leaf and stem structure, which had retained significant numbers of leaves, several with a fruit head. PhD student Rox Middleton said: “It was very exciting to be the first researchers ever to examine the Pollia fruit specimens under the microscope.” Earlier this year Rox Middleton received the SET for Britain Silver Award for her research poster on “Biomimetic optical materials made of cellulose.”
After a demonstration of the use of the microscope in reflected and transmitted light mode to the Kenyan researchers at the palaeontology section, the ZEISS Axio Scope has now been donated to researchers at the National Museums. “We are proud that local and visiting researchers who travel to the museums from all over the world will now be able to use its advanced capabilities to examine the huge wealth of valuable specimens in the museums,” said Dr Vignolini.
The two researchers discovered that the fossil specimens share many characteristics of modern species. “We now understand more about the preservation of the fruit body over the course of 12 million years,” said Dr Vignolini. They hope to publish their results early next year.
Text & materials with kind permission by Diane Harris, Rox Middleton & Silvia Vignolini, University of Cambridge, Department of Chemistry.
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