Feathers are amongst the most complex epidermal structures known, and they have a well-documented evolutionary trajectory across non-avian dinosaurs and basal birds. Moreover, melanosome-like microbodies preserved in association with fossil plumage have been used to reconstruct original colour, behaviour and physiology. However, these putative ancient melanosomes might alternatively represent microorganismal residues, a conflicting interpretation compounded by a lack of unambiguous chemical data. We therefore used sensitive molecular imaging, supported by multiple independent analytical tests, to demonstrate that the filamentous epidermal appendages in a new specimen of the Jurassic paravian Anchiornis comprise remnant eumelanosomes and fibril-like microstructures, preserved as endogenous eumelanin and authigenic calcium phosphate. These results provide novel insights into the early evolution of feathers at the sub-cellular level, and unequivocally determine that melanosomes can be preserved in fossil feathers.
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Taphonomy of fossil integumentary structures and bones from Ornithodira: Chemical composition and modes of preservationAuthor: Cincotta, A., 15 Dec 2017
Supervisor: Yans, J. (Supervisor), Godefroit, P. (External person) (Co-Supervisor), Terwagne, G. (Jury), Hallet, V. (Jury), Debaille, V. (External person) (Jury), McNamara, M. (External person) (Jury) & Garcia, G. (External person) (Jury)
Student thesis: Doc types › Doctor of SciencesFile