Contrary to traditional views, fossil bones have been shown to occasionally retain original cells, blood vessels, and structural tissues that are still comprised, in part, by their original proteins. To help clarify how such remarkable preservation occurs, we explored the fossilization history of a famous Tyrannosaurus rex specimen previously shown to yield original cells, vessels, and collagen protein sequences. By analyzing the trace element composition of the femur of this tyrannosaur, we show that after death its carcass decayed underwater in a brackish, oxic, estuarine channel and then became buried by sands that quickly cemented around the bones, largely protecting them from further chemical alteration. Other bones yielding original proteins have also been found to have fossilized within rapidly-cementing sediments in oxidizing environments, which strongly suggests that such settings are conducive to molecular preservation.
Ullmann, P. V., Macauley, K., Ash, R. D., Shoup, B., & Scannella, J. B. (2021). Taphonomic and diagenetic pathways to protein preservation, part I: The case of 0RW1S34RfeSDcfkexd09rT2tyrannosaurus rex1RW1S34RfeSDcfkexd09rT2 specimen MOR 1125. Biology, 10(11), 1193.
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