Friday, March 25, 2011

Soft Skin Preservation In 50 Million Year Old Reptile

Infrared mapping resolves soft tissue preservation in 50 million year-old reptile skin. 2011. N. P. Edwards, e tal. Proc. B., published online before print March 23.

© Marvel Comics
Scientists have published the brightly-coloured image shows the presence of amides – the organic compounds, or building blocks of life – in the ancient skin of a reptile, found in the 50 million year-old rocks of the Green River Formation in Utah, USA.

These infra-red maps are backed up by the first ever element-specific maps of organic material in fossil skin generated using X-rays at the Stanford synchrotron in the USA.

When the original compounds in the skin begin to break down they can form chemical bonds with trace metals, and under exceptional conditions these trace metals act like a 'bridge' to minerals in the sediments. This protects the skin material from being washed away or decomposing further.

"The mapped distributions of organic compounds and trace metals in 50 million year old skin look so much like maps we've made of modern lizard skin as a check on our work, it is sometimes hard to tell which is the fossil and which is fresh."

These new results imply that trace metal inventories and patterns in ancient reptile skin, even after fossilisation, can indeed be compared to modern reptiles. link