Chapter 9: Fossil microbodies are melanosomes: Evaluating and rejecting the "fossilized decay-associated microbes" hypothesis

Arindam Roy, Christopher S. Rogers, Thomas Clements, Ichael Pittman, Olivier Habimana, Peter Martin, Jakob Vinther

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Melanosomes are membrane-bound organelles of varying geometry, commonly found within a range of vertebrate tissues, that contain the pigment melanin. Melanosomes have been identified in the fossil record in many exceptionally preserved fossils allowing reconstructions of the coloration of many extinct animals. However, these microstructures have also been interpreted as "microbial cells" or melanin-producing bacteria based on their geometric similarities to melanosomes. Here we test these two conflicting hypotheses experimentally. Our results demonstrate multiple lines of evidence that these fossil microbodies are indeed melanosomes: the geometry of decay-associated microbes differs significantly from fossil microbodies; fossil microbodies are very strongly localized to in vivo melanized tissues and are absent in tissues typically unmelanized in vivo, in all fossils examined regardless of lithology or age. On the basis of these results, as well as a thorough review of existing literature on melaninlike pigments, we are able to rule out a bacterial origin for fossil microbodies associated with exceptional vertebrate fossils and demonstrate that fossil microbodies are in fact preserved melanosomes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPENNARAPTORAN THEROPOD DINOSAURS PAST PROGRESS AND NEW FRONTIERS
EditorsMichael Pittman, Xing Xu
PublisherAmerican Museum of Natural History Library
Pages251-276
Number of pages26
Edition1
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameBulletin of the American Museum of Natural History
Number1
Volume440
ISSN (Print)0003-0090

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