2013 Annual Science Report

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reporting  |  SEP 2012 – AUG 2013

Molecular Biosignatures: Fossil Record of Animal Biopolymers

Project Summary

We contributed to a study of the diagenetic products of the animal pigment eumelanin and learned how to recognize melanin-derived products in the fossil record.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
1 Publication
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

As part of an ongoing investigation of metazoan macromolecules and their fossil record, we contributed to a study of the diagenesis of the animal pigment eumelanin. We contributed pyrolysis-GC-MS data to help show that the pigment melanin can be preserved on geological timescales and also that burial time and temperature lead to blurring of the signal.

In the course of this work we perfected in-house approaches to analyse other biopolymers including chitin by pyrolysis-GC-MS. Our longer term objective is to develop a library of spectra for the pyrolysis products of metazoan biopolymers and their diagenetic products.

  • PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:
  • PROJECT MEMBERS:
    Derek Briggs
    Project Investigator

    Roger Summons
    Co-Investigator

    Keely Glass
    Collaborator

    Kristen Miller
    Collaborator

    John Simon
    Collaborator

    Philip Wilby
    Collaborator

  • RELATED OBJECTIVES:
    Objective 4.1
    Earth's early biosphere.

    Objective 4.2
    Production of complex life.

    Objective 7.1
    Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials