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Interpreting melanin-based coloration through deep time: a critical review
Lund Univ, Dept Geol, S-22362 Lund, Sweden..
N Carolina State Univ, Dept Biol Sci, Raleigh, NC 27695 USA..
Lund Univ, Dept Geol, S-22362 Lund, Sweden.;N Carolina State Univ, Dept Biol Sci, Raleigh, NC 27695 USA.;North Carolina Museum Nat Sci, Raleigh, NC 27601 USA..
SP Tech Res Inst Sweden, Chem Mat & Surfaces, S-50115 Boras, Sweden..
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2015 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 282, no 1813, 20150614Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Colour, derived primarily from melanin and/or carotenoid pigments, is integral to many aspects of behaviour in living vertebrates, including social signalling, sexual display and crypsis. Thus, identifying biochromes in extinct animals can shed light on the acquisition and evolution of these biological traits. Both eumelanin and melanin-containing cellular organelles (melanosomes) are preserved in fossils, but recognizing traces of ancient melanin-based coloration is fraught with interpretative ambiguity, especially when observations are based on morphological evidence alone. Assigning microbodies (or, more often reported, their 'mouldic impressions') as melanosome traces without adequately exduding a bacterial origin is also problematic because microbes are pervasive and intimately involved in organismal degradation. Additionally, some forms synthesize melanin. In this review, we survey both vertebrate and microbial melanization, and explore the conflicts influencing assessment of microbodies preserved in assodation with ancient animal soft tissues. We discuss the types of data used to interpret fossil melanosomes and evaluate whether these are sufficient for definitive diagnosis. Finally, we outline an integrated morphological and geochemical approach for detecting endogenous pigment remains and associated microstructures in multimillion-year-old fossils.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 282, no 1813, 20150614
Keyword [en]
bacteria, eumelanin, melanosome, pheomelanin, pyomelanin, vertebrate
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-266230DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0614ISI: 000362050000001PubMedID: 26290071OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-266230DiVA: diva2:867599
Swedish Research CouncilThe Crafoord Foundation
Available from: 2015-11-05 Created: 2015-11-05 Last updated: 2015-11-05Bibliographically approved

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