Branding/Logomark minus Citation Combined Shape Icon/Bookmark-empty Icon/Copy Icon/Collection Icon/Close Copy 7 no author result Created with Sketch. Icon/Back Created with Sketch. Match!

Chemical, experimental, and morphological evidence for diagenetically altered melanin in exceptionally preserved fossils

Published on Oct 13, 2015in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 9.50
· DOI :10.1073/pnas.1509831112
Caitlin Colleary2
Estimated H-index: 2
(UoB: University of Bristol),
Andrei Dolocan18
Estimated H-index: 18
(University of Texas at Austin)
+ 13 AuthorsJakob Vinther27
Estimated H-index: 27
(UoB: University of Bristol)
In living organisms, color patterns, behavior, and ecology are closely linked. Thus, detection of fossil pigments may permit inferences about important aspects of ancient animal ecology and evolution. Melanin-bearing melanosomes were suggested to preserve as organic residues in exceptionally preserved fossils, retaining distinct morphology that is associated with aspects of original color patterns. Nevertheless, these oblong and spherical structures have also been identified as fossilized bacteria. To date, chemical studies have not directly considered the effects of diagenesis on melanin preservation, and how this may influence its identification. Here we use time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry to identify and chemically characterize melanin in a diverse sample of previously unstudied extant and fossil taxa, including fossils with notably different diagenetic histories and geologic ages. We document signatures consistent with melanin preservation in fossils ranging from feathers, to mammals, to amphibians. Using principal component analyses, we characterize putative mixtures of eumelanin and phaeomelanin in both fossil and extant samples. Surprisingly, both extant and fossil amphibians generally exhibit melanosomes with a mixed eumelanin/phaeomelanin composition rather than pure eumelanin, as assumed previously. We argue that experimental maturation of modern melanin samples replicates diagenetic chemical alteration of melanin observed in fossils. This refutes the hypothesis that such fossil microbodies could be bacteria, and demonstrates that melanin is widely responsible for the organic soft tissue outlines in vertebrates found at exceptional fossil localities, thus allowing for the reconstruction of certain aspects of original pigment patterns.
Figures & Tables
  • References (44)
  • Citations (44)
Published on Nov 1, 2015in Nature Communications 12.35
Harry Chou21
Estimated H-index: 21
(University of Texas at Austin),
Ariel Ismach17
Estimated H-index: 17
(TAU: Tel Aviv University)
+ 2 AuthorsAndrei Dolocan18
Estimated H-index: 18
Two-dimensional (2D) atomic crystals and their heterostructures are an intense area of study owing to their unique properties that result from structural planar confinement. Intrinsically, the performance of a planar vertical device is linked to the quality of its 2D components and their interfaces, therefore requiring characterization tools that can reveal both its planar chemistry and morphology. Here, we propose a characterization methodology combining (micro-) Raman spectroscopy, atomic forc...
29 Citations Source Cite
Published on Sep 1, 2015in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 2.38
A.D. Muscente8
Estimated H-index: 8
(VT: Virginia Tech),
Andrew D. Hawkins4
Estimated H-index: 4
(VT: Virginia Tech),
Shuhai Xiao51
Estimated H-index: 51
(VT: Virginia Tech)
Abstract Phosphatized and silicified microfossils – preserved through replication of organic templates by authigenic calcium phosphate and silica, respectively – form through mechanistically similar mineralization processes but under notably different conditions. In order to characterize the environments and taphonomic processes associated with these preservational pathways, we compare phosphatized and silicified fossil assemblages in the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation (South China) in terms of ...
44 Citations Source Cite
Published on Aug 22, 2015
Johan Lindgren20
Estimated H-index: 20
(Lund University),
Alison E. Moyer7
Estimated H-index: 7
(NCSU: North Carolina State University)
+ 8 AuthorsBo Pagh Schultz3
Estimated H-index: 3
Colour, derived primarily from melanin and/or carotenoid pigments, is integral to many aspects of behaviour in living vertebrates, including social signalling, sexual display and crypsis. Thus, identifying biochromes in extinct animals can shed light on the acquisition and evolution of these biological traits. Both eumelanin and melanin-containing cellular organelles (melanosomes) are preserved in fossils, but recognizing traces of ancient melanin-based coloration is fraught with interpretative ...
19 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jun 1, 2015in BioEssays 4.42
Jakob Vinther27
Estimated H-index: 27
(UoB: University of Bristol)
Melanin, and other pigments have recently been shown to preserve over geologic time scales, and are found in several different organisms. This opens up the possibility of inferring colours and colour patterns ranging from invertebrates to feathered dinosaurs and mammals. An emerging discipline is palaeo colour: colour plays an important role in display and camouflage as well as in integumental strengthening and protection, which makes possible the hitherto difficult task of doing inferences abou...
39 Citations Source Cite
Published on May 1, 2015in Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research 6.12
Verena A. Kottler5
Estimated H-index: 5
(MPG: Max Planck Society),
Axel Künstner15
Estimated H-index: 15
(MPG: Max Planck Society),
Manfred Schartl64
Estimated H-index: 64
(University of Würzburg)
1 Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, T€ ubingen, Germany 2 Guest Group Evolutionary Genomics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Pl€ on, Germany 3 L€ ubeck Institute of Experimental Dermatology, University of L€ ubeck, L€ ubeck, Germany 4 Department of Physiological Chemistry, Biocenter, University of W€ urzburg, W€ urzburg, Germany 5 Comprehensive Cancer Center Mainfranken, University Clinic W€ urzburg, W€ urzburg, Germany
10 Citations Source Cite
Published on May 1, 2015in Scientific Reports 4.12
Alison E. Moyer7
Estimated H-index: 7
Wenxia Zheng10
Estimated H-index: 10
+ 4 AuthorsMary H. Schweitzer24
Estimated H-index: 24
Melanosomes or Microbes: Testing an Alternative Hypothesis for the Origin of Microbodies in Fossil Feathers
40 Citations Source Cite
Published on Mar 1, 2015in Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 1.23
Holly E. Barden7
Estimated H-index: 7
(University of Manchester),
Uwe Bergmann52
Estimated H-index: 52
(Stanford University)
+ 6 AuthorsBart E. van Dongen27
Estimated H-index: 27
(University of Manchester)
Many exceptionally preserved fossils have long been thought the product of preservation by bacterial autolithification, based largely upon the presence of, micron-sized, spherical or elongate bodies on their surface. This has recently been challenged by studies of similar fossils which cite morphological and geochemical evidence that these structures could be fossilized melanosomes, melanin-containing organelles. We geochemically analysed a tadpole from the Oligocene Enspel Formation, Germany, w...
11 Citations Source Cite
Published on Dec 25, 2014in Journal of Natural History 0.88
Daniel I. Speiser14
Estimated H-index: 14
(UCSB: University of California, Santa Barbara),
Daniel G. DeMartini9
Estimated H-index: 9
(UCSB: University of California, Santa Barbara),
Todd H. Oakley32
Estimated H-index: 32
(UCSB: University of California, Santa Barbara)
Certain species of chiton (Mollusca, Polyplacophora) have hundreds of small (< 100 µm) eyes embedded in their dorsal shell plates. These eyes each contain a retina, a layer of screening pigment, and a lens. Previously, we demonstrated that the eyes of chitons provide spatial vision. As in other camera-type eyes, the screening pigments in the eyes of chitons absorb off-axis light in order to preserve the contrast of images formed on the retina. Our results indicate that the red-brown, alkali-solu...
16 Citations Source Cite
Published on Dec 1, 2014in Nature Communications 12.35
Gengo Tanaka5
Estimated H-index: 5
(Kumamoto University),
Andrew R. Parker25
Estimated H-index: 25
(Natural History Museum)
+ 12 AuthorsTakao Mukuda8
Estimated H-index: 8
(Tottori University)
The evolution of the visual system in vertebrates remains poorly understood. Here, the authors show well-preserved rod and cone photoreceptors in a Upper Carboniferous fossilized fish, suggesting that colour vision has evolved in fish at least 300 Myr ago.
14 Citations Source Cite
Published on Sep 1, 2014in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 2.38
Thorsten Bauersachs11
Estimated H-index: 11
(CAU: University of Kiel),
Stefan Schouten97
Estimated H-index: 97
Lorenz Schwark43
Estimated H-index: 43
(CAU: University of Kiel)
We investigated a 150 m thick drill core section of Messel oil shale using bulk geochemical and stable isotope techniques in order to determine the organic matter sources and the environmental conditions that prevailed during the deposition of the lacustrine sequence. High C-org values (on average 27%) indicate that the Messel oil shale has likely been deposited under highly productive conditions and/or in an environment largely free of oxygen, which suggests a permanent stratification of the pa...
9 Citations Source Cite
Cited By44
Published on May 21, 2019in Nature Communications 12.35
P. M. Manning55
Estimated H-index: 55
(University of Manchester),
Nicholas P. Edwards10
Estimated H-index: 10
(SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)
+ 12 AuthorsKonstantin Ignatyev4
Estimated H-index: 4
Recent progress has been made in paleontology with respect to resolving pigmentation in fossil material. Morphological identification of fossilized melanosomes has been one approach, while a second methodology using chemical imaging and spectroscopy has also provided critical information particularly concerning eumelanin (black pigment) residue. In this work we develop the chemical imaging methodology to show that organosulfur-Zn complexes are indicators of pheomelanin (red pigment) in extant an...
Source Cite
Published on Jul 4, 2019in Proteomics 3.53
Source Cite
Published on Jun 1, 2019in Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15.94
Source Cite
Published on May 1, 2019in Micron 1.73
Andrea P. C. Campos7
Estimated H-index: 7
(AMU: Aix-Marseille University),
Rodrigo Tomazetto de Carvalho2
Estimated H-index: 2
+ 3 AuthorsMarcos Farina29
Estimated H-index: 29
(UFRJ: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
Abstract The study of fossil feathers has been revitalized in the last few decades and has contributed significantly to paleontological studies of dinosaurs and birds. Specific morphological and physicochemical characteristics of the microscale structures of feathers and the protein keratin are key targets when preserved during the fossilization process. Keratin is a fibrous protein that composes some hard tissues such as hair, nails and feathers. It is part of the so called intermediate filamen...
Source Cite
Published on Mar 6, 2019in Minerals 1.83
Kliti Grice38
Estimated H-index: 38
Alex I. Holman5
Estimated H-index: 5
+ 1 AuthorsMadison Tripp
In the vast majority of fossils, the organic matter is degraded with only an impression or cast of the organism remaining. In rare cases, ideal burial conditions result in a rapid fossilisation with an exceptional preservation of soft tissues and occasionally organic matter. Such deposits are known as Lagerstatten and have been found throughout the geological record. Exceptional preservation is often associated with finely crystalline quartz (e.g., cherts), fine sediments (e.g., muds) or volcani...
Source Cite
Published on Jan 1, 2019in Physiological Reviews 24.01
Liliana D’Alba9
Estimated H-index: 9
(UGent: Ghent University),
Matthew D. Shawkey30
Estimated H-index: 30
(UGent: Ghent University)
Melanosomes are organelles that produce and store melanin, a widespread biological pigment with a unique suite of properties including high refractive index, semiconducting capabilities, material s...
2 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 1, 2019in Palaeontology 3.73
Evan T. Saitta4
Estimated H-index: 4
(UoB: University of Bristol),
Thomas G. Kaye9
Estimated H-index: 9
(AmeriCorps VISTA),
Jakob Vinther27
Estimated H-index: 27
(UoB: University of Bristol)
Source Cite
Published on Jan 1, 2019in Nature Ecology and Evolution
Zixiao Yang1
Estimated H-index: 1
(NU: Nanjing University),
Baoyu Jiang13
Estimated H-index: 13
(NU: Nanjing University)
+ 6 AuthorsMichael J. Benton66
Estimated H-index: 66
(UoB: University of Bristol)
Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to achieve true flapping flight, but in the absence of living representatives, many questions concerning their biology and lifestyle remain unresolved. Pycnofibres—the integumentary coverings of pterosaurs—are particularly enigmatic: although many reconstructions depict fur-like coverings composed of pycnofibres, their affinities and function are not fully understood. Here, we report the preservation in two anurognathid pterosaur specimens of morphologically...
Source Cite