Posted by Jim
OK, here’s a cool report. Using X-ray diffraction methods in a synchotron (like our Astrobiology group is trying to use for microorganisms from Yellowstone), the investigators were able to look at multi-element signatures of different parts of the body. They noted extensive loss of P (relative to Ca) from bones, attributing this to low soil P in general. Interestingly, they noted that the P content of the feathers was very similar to that seen in modern birds but the S content was low. What was surprising to the investigators was that the soft tissue analyses suggest that they are seeing real “chemical fossils” that contain the actual elements that were in the animal itself. Previously it was assumed that these were just impressions of soft tissues in the matrix. This opens up the possibility of, for example, conducting stable isotope analyses of the elements in these soft tissues and learning more about, for example, the trophic relations of ancient organisms.