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Taphonomy of feather color and biomineralized tissues

From: Ben Creisler

A couple of recent papers that may be of interest:

Maria E. McNamara (2013)
The Taphonomy of Colour in Fossil Insects and Feathers.
Palaeontology (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1111/pala.12044

Colouration is an important multifunctional attribute of modern
animals, but its evolutionary history is poorly resolved, in part
because of our limited ability to recognize and interpret fossil
evidence of colour. Recent studies on structural and pigmentary
colours in fossil insects and feathers have illuminated important
aspects of the anatomy, taphonomy, evolution and function of colour in
these fossils. An understanding of the taphonomic factors that control
the preservation of colour is key to assessing the fidelity with which
original colours are preserved and can constrain interpretations of
the visual appearance of fossil insects and theropods. Various
analytical approaches can identify anatomical and chemical evidence of
colour in fossils; experimental taphonomic studies inform on how
colour alters during diagenesis. Preservation of colour is controlled
by a suite of factors, the most important of which relate to the
diagenetic history of the host sediment, that is, maximum burial
temperatures and fluid flow, and subsurface weathering. Future studies
focussing on key morphological and chemical aspects of colour
preservation relating to cuticular pigments in insects and keratinous
structures and nonmelanin pigments in feathers, for example, will
resolve outstanding questions regarding the taphonomy of colour and
will enhance our ability to infer original colouration and its
functions in fossil insects and theropods.


Clive N. Trueman (2013)
Chemical taphonomy of biomineralized tissues.
Palaeontology (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1111/pala.12041

Biomineralized tissues are chemically altered after death, and this
diagenetic alteration can obscure original biological chemical
features or provide new chemical information about the depositional
environment. To use the chemistry of fossil biominerals to reconstruct
biological, environmental or taphonomic information, a solid
appreciation of biomineralization, mineral diagenesis and
biomineral–water interaction is needed. Here, I summarize the key
recent developments in the fields of biomineralization and post-mortem
trace element exchange that have significant implications for our
understanding of the diagenetic behaviour of biominerals and the ways
in which biomineral chemistry can be used in palaeontological and
taphonomic research.