Modern Fossils?

March 14, 2013

Modern Fossils_2sm (2)

Photographer: James Van Gundy
Summary Author: James Van Gundy

The term "fossil" usually refers to traces of ancient life, but these modern impressions of Hala fruit from the Big Island of Hawaii may someday qualify as fossils if they're buried and preserved. The impressions were made when the Hala tree (Pandanus tectorius) that bore the fruit was inundated by very fluid basaltic lava from Kilauea volcano in 1990. Fossils that are formed in this manner, with the original organism being completely destroyed while the physical impression is left behind, are called external molds. In all likelyhood, these molds will not survive long enough to become part of the fossil record, as they almost certainly will be destroyed either by wave action from the nearby shoreline, or by being buried in a subsequent eruption. Such destruction of potential fossils is undoubtedly the rule rather than the exception.

The insert shows the living Hala fruit. Hala is sometimes referred to as a famine food - it's edible, but only if there's nothing else available to eat. It's said to be mildly sweet and very fibrous. Photo taken on April 3, 2005.

Photo details: Camera Maker: SONY; Camera Model: CYBERSHOT; Focal Length: 7.0mm; Aperture: f/5.6; Exposure Time: 0.0020 s (1/500); ISO equiv: 100.