Curtin researchers have analyzed natural molecules preserved inside 306-million-year-old fossilized animal feces (coprolite) and unlocked a wealth of details about the diets of long-extinct animals and prehistoric ecosystems. Their examine is printed in Biology.
Lead creator Ph.D. pupil Madison Tripp from Curtin’s WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Center (WA-OIGC) stated the analysis had revealed essential biomolecular info that, regardless of being hundreds of thousands of years previous, remained intact at a well-preserved fossil web site.
“The samples, collected from Mazon Creek in Illinois and supplied by Field Museum Chicago, are the first coprolites of the 60-million-year-spanning Carboniferous age to be studied for organic molecules,” Tripp stated.
“By finding out these molecules preserved contained in the fossilized feces samples, we discovered fascinating dietary details about an unidentifiable extinct animal from Earth’s distant previous—displaying that the animal was a meat-eater or on a predominantly carnivorous food plan.
“Molecular analysis of the feces or coprolites showed two clear indicators the animal was carnivorous. One was the high proportion of a variety of molecules derived from cholesterol, which is present in most animals, and the other is a distinct lack of plant-derived biomarkers.”
“Interpreting the diets of extinct animals through the biomolecular analysis of coprolites is important for studying ancient environments and ecosystems, which may have implications for understanding, our current ecosystems.”
Research co-author ARC Laureate Fellow, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice, Director of WA-OIGC, who was this week named Scientist of the Year on the 2022 Premier’s Science Awards, stated the analysis highlighted the importance of exceptionally preserved fossil websites, reminiscent of Mazon Creek.
“These hard, compact masses or carbonate concretions, which are known to have rapidly encapsulated the flora and fauna and are responsible for the exceptional preservation at Mazon Creek, are important in not only soft tissue preservation but also biomolecular preservation,” Professor Grice stated.
“This means we are able to analyze and examine historic animals and ecosystems, even when intact DNA is now not current.
“Our study highlights the importance of future studies into the molecular preservation of such specimens, which have the potential to contain significant palaeoenvironmental and ecological information expanding on our previous research on Devonian and Jurassic fossils.”
Madison Tripp et al, Fossil Biomarkers and Biosignatures Preserved in Coprolites Reveal Carnivorous Diets within the Carboniferous Mazon Creek Ecosystem, Biology (2022). DOI: 10.3390/biology11091289
Study of 300-million-year-old feces finds meat on the menu (2022, August 31)
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