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Synchrotron x-ray fluorescence analysis reveals diagenetic alteration of fossil melanosome trace metal chemistry
Rogers, Christopher S.
Webb, Samuel M.
McNamara, Maria E.
A key feature of the pigment melanin is its high binding affinity for trace metal ions. In modern vertebrates trace metals associated with melanosomes, melanin-rich organelles, can show tissue-specific and taxon-specific distribution patterns. Such signals preserve in fossil melanosomes, informing on the anatomy and phylogenetic affinities of fossil vertebrates. Fossil and modern melanosomes, however, often differ in trace metal chemistry; in particular, melanosomes from fossil vertebrate eyes are depleted in Zn and enriched in Cu relative to their extant counterparts. Whether these chemical differences are biological or taphonomic in origin is unknown, limiting our ability to use melanosome trace metal chemistry to test palaeobiological hypotheses. Here, we use maturation experiments on eye melanosomes from extant vertebrates and synchrotron rapid scan-x-ray fluorescence analysis to show that thermal maturation can dramatically alter melanosome trace element chemistry. In particular, maturation of melanosomes in Cu-rich solutions results in significant depletion of Zn, probably due to low pH and competition effects with Cu. These results confirm fossil melanosome chemistry is susceptible to alteration due to variations in local chemical conditions during diagenesis. Maturation experiments can provide essential data on melanosome chemical taphonomy required for accurate interpretations of preserved chemical signatures in fossils.
Fossil , Soft tissue , Taphonomy , Synchrotron-X-ray fluorescence
Rogers, C. S., Webb, S. M. and McNamara, M. E. (2021) 'Synchrotron x-ray fluorescence analysis reveals diagenetic alteration of fossil melanosome trace metal chemistry', Palaeontology, 64(1), pp. 63-73. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.1649
© 2020 The Palaeontological Association. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Rogers, C.S., Webb, S.M. and McNamara, M.E. (2021), Synchrotron x-ray fluorescence analysis reveals diagenetic alteration of fossil melanosome trace metal chemistry. Palaeontology, 64: 63-73, which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/pala.12506 This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.