Endogenous biomolecules and soft tissues are known to persist in the fossil record. To date, these discoveries derive from a limited number of preservational environments, (e.g., fluvial channels and floodplains), and fossils from less common depositional environments have been largely unexplored. We conducted paleomolecular analyses of shallow marine vertebrate fossils from the Cretaceous–Paleogene Hornerstown Formation, an 80–90% glauconitic greensand from Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park in Mantua Township, NJ. Twelve samples were demineralized and found to yield products morphologically consistent with vertebrate osteocytes, blood vessels, and bone matrix. Specimens from these deposits that are dark in color exhibit excellent histological preservation and yielded a greater recovery of cells and soft tissues, whereas lighter-colored specimens exhibit poor histology and few to no cells/soft tissues. Additionally, a well-preserved femur of the marine crocodilian Thoracosaurus was found to have retained endogenous collagen I by immunofluorescence and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Our results thus not only corroborate previous findings that soft tissue and biomolecular recovery from fossils preserved in marine environments are possible but also expand the range of depositional environments documented to preserve endogenous biomolecules, thus broadening the suite of geologic strata that may be fruitful to examine in future paleomolecular studies.
Voegele, K.K.; Boles, Z.M.; Ullmann, P.V.; Schroeter, E.R.; Zheng, W.; Lacovara, K.J. Soft Tissue and Biomolecular Preservation in Vertebrate Fossils from Glauconitic, Shallow Marine Sediments of the Hornerstown Formation, Edelman Fossil Park, New Jersey. Biology 2022, 11, 1161. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11081161
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