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The mapping and differentiation of biological and environmental elemental signatures in the fossil remains of a 50 million year old bird

DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00395K DOI Help

Authors: Victoria Egerton (University of Manchester) , R A Wogelius (University of Manchester) , Mark A. Norell (American Museum of Natural History) , Nicholas Edwards (University of Manchester) , William Sellers (University of Manchester) , Uwe Bergmann (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) , Dimosthenis Sokaras (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) , Roberto Alonso-mori (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) , Konstantin Ignatyev (Diamond Light Source) , Arjen Van Veelen (University of Manchester) , Jennifer Anné (University of Manchester) , Bart Van Dongen (University of Manchester) , Fabien Knoll (University of Manchester) , Phillip Manning (University of Manchester)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry

State: Published (Approved)
Published: January 2015
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 8597 , 9488

Open Access Open Access

Abstract: The preservation of fossils reflects the interplay of inorganic and organic chemical processes, which should be clearly differentiated to make interpretations about the biology of extinct organisms. A new coliiformes bird (mouse bird) from the [similar]50 million year old Green River Formation (Wyoming, USA) has here been analysed using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence and environmental scanning electron microscopy with an attached X-ray energy dispersive system (ESEM-EDS). The concentration and distribution of 16 elements (Si, P, S, Cl, K, Ca, Ti, Mg, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Br, Ba, Hg) has been mapped for individual points on the sample. S, Cu and Zn map distinctly within visibly preserved feathers and X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) shows that S and Cu within the feathers are organically bound in a similar manner to modern feathers. The morphological preservation of the feathers, on both macro- and microscopic scales, is variable throughout the fossil and the differences in the lateral microfacies have resulted in a morphological preservation gradient. This study clearly differentiates endogenous organic remains from those representing exogenous overprinted geochemical precipitates and illustrates the chemical complexity of the overall taphonomic process.

Subject Areas: Biology and Bio-materials, Earth Science, Chemistry


Instruments: I18-Microfocus Spectroscopy

Other Facilities: SSRL