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Seeking carotenoid pigments in amber-preserved fossil feathers.

Thomas DB, Nascimbene PC, Dove CJ, Grimaldi DA, James HF - Sci Rep (2014)

Bottom Line: Plumage colours bestowed by carotenoid pigments can be important for visual communication and likely have a long evolutionary history within Aves.With reference to a modern feather, we sought chemical evidence of carotenoids in six feathers preserved in amber (Miocene to mid-Cretaceous) and in a feather preserved as a compression fossil (Eocene).Significantly, we show that carotenoid plumage pigments can be detected without sample destruction through an amber matrix using confocal Raman spectroscopy.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: 1] Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA [2].

ABSTRACT
Plumage colours bestowed by carotenoid pigments can be important for visual communication and likely have a long evolutionary history within Aves. Discovering plumage carotenoids in fossil feathers could provide insight into the ecology of ancient birds and non-avian dinosaurs. With reference to a modern feather, we sought chemical evidence of carotenoids in six feathers preserved in amber (Miocene to mid-Cretaceous) and in a feather preserved as a compression fossil (Eocene). Evidence of melanin pigmentation and microstructure preservation was evaluated with scanning electron and light microscopies. We observed fine microstructural details including evidence for melanin pigmentation in the amber and compression fossils, but Raman spectral bands did not confirm the presence of carotenoids in them. Carotenoids may have been originally absent from these feathers or the pigments may have degraded during burial; the preservation of microstructure may suggest the former. Significantly, we show that carotenoid plumage pigments can be detected without sample destruction through an amber matrix using confocal Raman spectroscopy.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Microstructures in modern and fossil feathers.Fossil feathers in amber preserved microstructural details that were analogous to structures in an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) and a willet (Tringa semipalmata) feather. Morphological evidence for the order-level taxonomy of the fossil feathers was not observed. Feathers were studied with a Leica FS CB microscope (Leica Microsystems Inc., IL USA).
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f3: Microstructures in modern and fossil feathers.Fossil feathers in amber preserved microstructural details that were analogous to structures in an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) and a willet (Tringa semipalmata) feather. Morphological evidence for the order-level taxonomy of the fossil feathers was not observed. Feathers were studied with a Leica FS CB microscope (Leica Microsystems Inc., IL USA).

Mentions: Feather microstructure was preserved with high fidelity in each of the fossil feathers in amber (Fig. 3). Morphological evidence for the order-level taxonomy of the fossil feathers was not observed, although morphological characteristics in three amber-preserved feathers were analogous to microstructures in modern feathers. The filamentous barbs of Bu-JZC-F2a were morphologically analogous to the plumulaceous barbs of a contour feather from a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) (Fig. 3). Feather barbs in Bu-JZC-F9 were morphologically similar to the sub-pennaceous barbs of a modern willet (Tringa semipalmata); dark bodies spaced along barbules in Bu-JZC-F9 were similar to pigment structures in a willet feather. The darkened barbs of AMNH-DR-1432 preserved pennaceous hooklets, and were morphologically analogous to the melanin-rich barbs of an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos).


Seeking carotenoid pigments in amber-preserved fossil feathers.

Thomas DB, Nascimbene PC, Dove CJ, Grimaldi DA, James HF - Sci Rep (2014)

Microstructures in modern and fossil feathers.Fossil feathers in amber preserved microstructural details that were analogous to structures in an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) and a willet (Tringa semipalmata) feather. Morphological evidence for the order-level taxonomy of the fossil feathers was not observed. Feathers were studied with a Leica FS CB microscope (Leica Microsystems Inc., IL USA).
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4048910&req=5

f3: Microstructures in modern and fossil feathers.Fossil feathers in amber preserved microstructural details that were analogous to structures in an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) and a willet (Tringa semipalmata) feather. Morphological evidence for the order-level taxonomy of the fossil feathers was not observed. Feathers were studied with a Leica FS CB microscope (Leica Microsystems Inc., IL USA).
Mentions: Feather microstructure was preserved with high fidelity in each of the fossil feathers in amber (Fig. 3). Morphological evidence for the order-level taxonomy of the fossil feathers was not observed, although morphological characteristics in three amber-preserved feathers were analogous to microstructures in modern feathers. The filamentous barbs of Bu-JZC-F2a were morphologically analogous to the plumulaceous barbs of a contour feather from a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) (Fig. 3). Feather barbs in Bu-JZC-F9 were morphologically similar to the sub-pennaceous barbs of a modern willet (Tringa semipalmata); dark bodies spaced along barbules in Bu-JZC-F9 were similar to pigment structures in a willet feather. The darkened barbs of AMNH-DR-1432 preserved pennaceous hooklets, and were morphologically analogous to the melanin-rich barbs of an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

Bottom Line: Plumage colours bestowed by carotenoid pigments can be important for visual communication and likely have a long evolutionary history within Aves.With reference to a modern feather, we sought chemical evidence of carotenoids in six feathers preserved in amber (Miocene to mid-Cretaceous) and in a feather preserved as a compression fossil (Eocene).Significantly, we show that carotenoid plumage pigments can be detected without sample destruction through an amber matrix using confocal Raman spectroscopy.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: 1] Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA [2].

ABSTRACT
Plumage colours bestowed by carotenoid pigments can be important for visual communication and likely have a long evolutionary history within Aves. Discovering plumage carotenoids in fossil feathers could provide insight into the ecology of ancient birds and non-avian dinosaurs. With reference to a modern feather, we sought chemical evidence of carotenoids in six feathers preserved in amber (Miocene to mid-Cretaceous) and in a feather preserved as a compression fossil (Eocene). Evidence of melanin pigmentation and microstructure preservation was evaluated with scanning electron and light microscopies. We observed fine microstructural details including evidence for melanin pigmentation in the amber and compression fossils, but Raman spectral bands did not confirm the presence of carotenoids in them. Carotenoids may have been originally absent from these feathers or the pigments may have degraded during burial; the preservation of microstructure may suggest the former. Significantly, we show that carotenoid plumage pigments can be detected without sample destruction through an amber matrix using confocal Raman spectroscopy.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus