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Biology (Basel)




Recent recoveries of peptide sequences from two Cretaceous dinosaur bones require paleontologists to rethink traditional notions about how fossilization occurs. As part of this shifting paradigm, several research groups have recently begun attempting to characterize biomolecular decay and stabilization pathways in diverse paleoenvironmental and diagenetic settings. To advance these efforts, we assessed the taphonomic and geochemical history of Brachylophosaurus canadensis specimen MOR 2598, the left femur of which was previously found to retain endogenous cells, tissues, and structural proteins. Combined stratigraphic and trace element data show that after brief fluvial transport, this articulated hind limb was buried in a sandy, likely-brackish, estuarine channel. During early diagenesis, percolating groundwaters stagnated within the bones, forming reducing internal microenvironments. Recent exposure and weathering also caused the surficial leaching of trace elements from the specimen. Despite these shifting redox regimes, proteins within the bones were able to survive through diagenesis, attesting to their remarkable resiliency over geologic time. Synthesizing our findings with other recent studies reveals that oxidizing conditions in the initial ~48 h postmortem likely promote molecular stabilization reactions and that the retention of early-diagenetic trace element signatures may be a useful proxy for molecular recovery potential.


© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

Publication of this article was supported by the 2022-23 Rowan University Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.