Microscopical and elemental FESEM and Phenom ProX-SEM-EDS analysis of osteocyte- and blood vessel-like microstructures obtained from fossil vertebrates of the Eocene Messel Pit, Germany

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    The Eocene (∼48 Ma) Messel Pit in Germany is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
    because of its exceptionally preserved fossils, including vertebrates, invertebrates,
    and plants. Messel fossil vertebrates are typically characterized by their articulated
    state, and in some cases the skin, hair, feathers, scales and stomach contents are
    also preserved. Despite the exceptional macroscopic preservation of Messel fossil
    vertebrates, the microstructural aspect of these fossils has been poorly explored. In
    particular, soft tissue structures such as hair or feathers have not been chemically
    analyzed, nor have bone microstructures. I report here the preservation and recovery
    of osteocyte-like and blood vessel-like microstructures from the bone of Messel Pit
    specimens, including the turtles Allaeochelys crassesculpta and Neochelys franzeni,
    the crocodile Diplocynodon darwini, and the pangolin Eomanis krebsi. I used a
    Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (FESEM) and a Phenom ProX
    desktop scanning electron microscope (LOT-QuantumDesign) equipped with a
    thermionic CeB6 source and a high sensitivity multi-mode backscatter electron (BSE)
    for microscopical and elemental characterization of these bone microstructures.
    Osteocyte-like and blood vessel-like microstructures are constituted by a thin layer
    (∼50 nm thickness), external and internal mottled texture with slightly marked
    striations. Circular to linear marks are common on the external surface of the
    osteocyte-like microstructures and are interpreted as microbial troughs. Iron (Fe)
    is the most abundant element found in the osteocyte-like and blood vessel-like
    microstructures, but not in the bone matrix or collagen fibril-like microstructures.
    The occurrence of well-preserved soft-tissue elements (at least their physical form)
    establishes a promising background for future studies on preservation of biomolecules
    (proteins or DNA) in Messel Pit fossils.
    Original languageSpanish (Colombia)
    Pages (from-to)e1618
    Number of pages17
    StatePublished - Jan 21 2016

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