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Pheomelanin pigment remnants mapped in fossils of an extinct mammal

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10087-2 DOI Help

Authors: Phillip L. Manning (University of Manchester; College of Charleston) , Nicholas P. Edwards (Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource) , Uwe Bergmann (Stanford PULSE Institute, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) , Jennifer Anne (The Children’s Museum of Indianpolis) , William Sellers (University of Manchester) , Arjen Van Veelen (University of Southampton) , Dimosthenis Sokaras (Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource) , Victoria M. Egerton (University of Manchester; The Children’s Museum of Indianpolis) , Roberto Alonso-mori (Linac Coherent Light Source) , Konstantin Ignatyev (Diamond Light Source) , Bart E. Van Dongen (University of Manchester) , Kazumasa Wakamatsu (Fujita Health University School of Health Sciences) , Shosuke Ito (Fujita Health University School of Health Sciences) , Fabien Knoll (University of Manchester; ARAID—Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis) , Roy A. Wogelius (University of Manchester)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Nature Communications , VOL 10

State: Published (Approved)
Published: May 2019
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 12948 , 11865 , 9488 , 8597 , 7749

Open Access Open Access

Abstract: 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 and fossil soft tissue and that the mapping of these residual biochemical compounds can be used to restore melanin pigment distribution in a 3 million year old extinct mammal species (Apodemus atavus). Synchotron Rapid Scanning X-ray Fluorescence imaging showed that the distributions of Zn and organic S are correlated within this fossil fur just as in pheomelanin-rich modern integument. Furthermore, Zn coordination chemistry within this fossil fur is closely comparable to that determined from pheomelanin-rich fur and hair standards. The non-destructive methods presented here provide a protocol for detecting residual pheomelanin in precious specimens.

Journal Keywords: Biogeochemistry; Palaeontology

Subject Areas: Chemistry, Biology and Bio-materials

Instruments: I18-Microfocus Spectroscopy

Other Facilities: Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL)