Mineralized soft-tissue structure and chemistry in a mummified hadrosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, North Dakota (USA)

Phillip L. Manning, Peter M. Morris, Adam McMahon, Emrys Jones, Andy Gize, Joe H. S. Macquaker, George Wolff, Anu Thompson, Jim Marshall, Kevin G. Taylor, Tyler Lyson, Simon Gaskell, Onrapak Reamtong, William I. Sellers, Bart E. van Dongen, Mike Buckley, Roy A. Wogelius

Abstract

An extremely well-preserved dinosaur (Cf. Edmontosaurus sp.) found in the Hell Creek Formation (Upper Cretaceous, North Dakota) retains soft-tissue replacement structures and associated organic compounds. Mineral cements precipitated in the skin apparently follow original cell boundaries, partially preserving epidermis microstructure. Infrared and electron microprobe images of ossified tendon clearly show preserved mineral zonation, with silica and trapped carbon dioxide forming thin linings on Haversian canals within apatite. Furthermore, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) of materials recovered from the skin and terminal ungual phalanx suggests the presence of compounds containing amide groups. Amino acid composition analyses of the mineralized skin envelope clearly differ from the surrounding matrix; however, intact proteins could not be obtained using protein mass spectrometry. The presence of endogenously derived organics from the skin was further demonstrated by pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry (Py-GCMS), indicating survival and presence of macromolecules that were in part aliphatic (see the electronic supplementary material).

Footnotes

    • Received May 12, 2009.
    • Accepted June 8, 2009.
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