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

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 ~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.
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [3] ;  [3] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [5]
  1. Univ. of Manchester (United Kingdom)
  2. American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New York, NY (United States). Division of Paleontology
  3. SLAC National Accelerator Lab., Menlo Park, CA (United States)
  4. Diamond Light Source, Didcot (United Kingdom)
  5. Univ. of Manchester (United Kingdom); American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New York, NY (United States). Division of Paleontology
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 30; Journal Issue: 3; Journal ID: ISSN 0267-9477
Royal Society of Chemistry
Research Org:
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC), Menlo Park, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States