Publications by authors named "Evan T Saitta"

5 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Reanalysis of putative ovarian follicles suggests that Early Cretaceous birds were feeding not breeding.

Sci Rep 2020 11 4;10(1):19035. Epub 2020 Nov 4.

LWL-Museum of Natural History, Westphalian State Museum with Planetarium, Sentruper Straße 285, 48161, Münster, Germany.

We address the identity of putative ovarian follicles in Early Cretaceous bird fossils from the Jehol Biota (China), whose identification has previously been challenged. For the first time, we present a link to the botanical fossil record, showing that the "follicles" of some enantiornithine fossils resemble plant propagules from the Jehol Biota, which belong to Carpolithes multiseminalis. The botanical affinities of this "form-taxon" are currently unresolved, but we note that C. multiseminalis propagules resemble propagules associated with cone-like organs described as Strobilites taxusoides, which in turn are possibly associated with sterile foliage allocated to Liaoningcladus. Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence imaging furthermore reveals different intensities of fluorescence of "follicles" associated with a skeleton of the confuciusornithid Eoconfuciusornis zhengi, with a non-fluorescent circular micro-pattern indicating carbonaceous (or originally carbonaceous) matter. This is inconsistent with the interpretation of these structures as ovarian follicles. We therefore reaffirm that the "follicles" represent ingested food items, and even though the exact nature of the Eoconfuciusornis stomach contents remains elusive, at least some enantiornithines ingested plant propagules.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-76078-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7643104PMC
November 2020

Recent advances in amniote palaeocolour reconstruction and a framework for future research.

Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 2019 Sep 19. Epub 2019 Sep 19.

Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 142 Xizhimenwai Street., Beijing, 100044, China.

Preserved melanin pigments have been discovered in fossilised integumentary appendages of several amniote lineages (fishes, frogs, snakes, marine reptiles, non-avialan dinosaurs, birds, and mammals) excavated from lagerstätten across the globe. Melanisation is a leading factor in organic integument preservation in these fossils. Melanin in extant vertebrates is typically stored in rod- to sphere-shaped, lysosome-derived, membrane-bound vesicles called melanosomes. Black, dark brown, and grey colours are produced by eumelanin, and reddish-brown colours are produced by phaeomelanin. Specific morphotypes and nanostructural arrangements of melanosomes and their relation to the keratin matrix in integumentary appendages create the so-called 'structural colours'. Reconstruction of colour patterns in ancient animals has opened an exciting new avenue for studying their life, behaviour and ecology. Modern relationships between the shape, arrangement, and size of avian melanosomes, melanin chemistry, and feather colour have been applied to reconstruct the hues and colour patterns of isolated feathers and plumages of the dinosaurs Anchiornis, Sinosauropteryx, and Microraptor in seminal papers that initiated the field of palaeocolour reconstruction. Since then, further research has identified countershading camouflage patterns, and informed subsequent predictions on the ecology and behaviour of these extinct animals. However, palaeocolour reconstruction remains a nascent field, and current approaches have considerable potential for further refinement, standardisation, and expansion. This includes detailed study of non-melanic pigments that might be preserved in fossilised integuments. A common issue among existing palaeocolour studies is the lack of contextualisation of different lines of evidence and the wide variety of techniques currently employed. To that end, this review focused on fossil amniotes: (i) produces an overarching framework that appropriately reconstructs palaeocolour by accounting for the chemical signatures of various pigments, morphology and local arrangement of pigment-bearing vesicles, pigment concentration, macroscopic colour patterns, and taphonomy; (ii) provides background context for the evolution of colour-producing mechanisms; and (iii) encourages future efforts in palaeocolour reconstructions particularly of less-studied groups such as non-dinosaur archosaurs and non-archosaur amniotes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/brv.12552DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7004074PMC
September 2019

Cretaceous dinosaur bone contains recent organic material and provides an environment conducive to microbial communities.

Elife 2019 06 18;8. Epub 2019 Jun 18.

Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, United States.

Fossils were thought to lack original organic molecules, but chemical analyses show that some can survive. Dinosaur bone has been proposed to preserve collagen, osteocytes, and blood vessels. However, proteins and labile lipids are diagenetically unstable, and bone is a porous open system, allowing microbial/molecular flux. These 'soft tissues' have been reinterpreted as biofilms. Organic preservation versus contamination of dinosaur bone was examined by freshly excavating, with aseptic protocols, fossils and sedimentary matrix, and chemically/biologically analyzing them. Fossil 'soft tissues' differed from collagen chemically and structurally; while degradation would be expected, the patterns observed did not support this. 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing revealed that dinosaur bone hosted an abundant microbial community different from lesser abundant communities of surrounding sediment. Subsurface dinosaur bone is a relatively fertile habitat, attracting microbes that likely utilize inorganic nutrients and complicate identification of original organic material. There exists potential post-burial taphonomic roles for subsurface microorganisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.46205DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6581507PMC
June 2019

Experimental subaqueous burial of a bird carcass and compaction of plumage.

Palaontol Z 2018 11;92(4):727-732. Epub 2018 Jun 11.

1School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Rd, Bristol, BS8 1RJ UK.

'Exceptional fossils' of dinosaurs preserving feathers have radically changed the way we view their paleobiology and the evolution of birds. Understanding how such soft tissues preserve is imperative to accurately interpreting the morphology of fossil feathers. Experimental taphonomy has been integral to such investigations. One such experiment used a printing press to mimic compaction, done subaerially and without sediment burial, and concluded that the leaking of bodily fluid could lead to the clumping of feathers by causing barbs to stick together such that they superficially resemble simpler, less derived, filamentous structures. Here we use a novel, custom-built experimental setup to more accurately mimic subaqueous burial and compaction under low-energy, fine-grain depositional environments applicable to the taphonomic settings most plumage-preserving 'exceptional fossils' are found in. We find that when submerged and subsequently buried and compacted, feathers do not clump together and they maintain their original arrangement. Submersion in fluid in and of itself does not lead to clumping of barbs; this would only occur upon pulling feathers out from water into air. Furthermore, sediment encases the feathers, fixing them in place during compaction. Thus, feather clumping that leads to erroneously plesiomorphic morphological interpretations may not be a taphonomic factor of concern when examining fossil feathers. Our current methodology is amenable to further improvements that will continue to more accurately mimic subaqueous burial and compaction, allowing for various hypothesis testing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12542-018-0411-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6244563PMC
June 2018

Soft-Bodied Fossils Are Not Simply Rotten Carcasses - Toward a Holistic Understanding of Exceptional Fossil Preservation: Exceptional Fossil Preservation Is Complex and Involves the Interplay of Numerous Biological and Geological Processes.

Bioessays 2018 Jan 29;40(1). Epub 2017 Nov 29.

School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ, UK.

Exceptionally preserved fossils are the product of complex interplays of biological and geological processes including burial, autolysis and microbial decay, authigenic mineralization, diagenesis, metamorphism, and finally weathering and exhumation. Determining which tissues are preserved and how biases affect their preservation pathways is important for interpreting fossils in phylogenetic, ecological, and evolutionary frameworks. Although laboratory decay experiments reveal important aspects of fossilization, applying the results directly to the interpretation of exceptionally preserved fossils may overlook the impact of other key processes that remove or preserve morphological information. Investigations of fossils preserving non-biomineralized tissues suggest that certain structures that are decay resistant (e.g., the notochord) are rarely preserved (even where carbonaceous components survive), and decay-prone structures (e.g., nervous systems) can fossilize, albeit rarely. As we review here, decay resistance is an imperfect indicator of fossilization potential, and a suite of biological and geological processes account for the features preserved in exceptional fossils.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bies.201700167DOI Listing
January 2018