Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

Molecular preservation of the pigment melanin in fossil melanosomes.

  • Johan Lindgren
  • Per Uvdal
  • Peter Sjövall
  • Dan-E Nilsson
  • Anders Engdahl
  • Bo Pagh Schultz
  • Volker Thiel
Publishing year: 2012
Language: English
Publication/Series: Nature Communications
Volume: 3
Issue: Online 08 May 2012
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group

Abstract english

Fossil feathers, hairs and eyes are regularly preserved as carbonized traces comprised of masses of micrometre-sized bodies that are spherical, oblate or elongate in shape. For a long time, these minute structures were regarded as the remains of biofilms of keratinophilic bacteria, but recently they have been reinterpreted as melanosomes; that is, colour-bearing organelles. Resolving this fundamental difference in interpretation is crucial: if endogenous then the fossil microbodies would represent a significant advancement in the fields of palaeontology and evolutionary biology given, for example, the possibility to reconstruct integumentary colours and plumage colour patterns. It has previously been shown that certain trace elements occur in fossils as organometallic compounds, and hence may be used as biomarkers for melanin pigments. Here we expand this knowledge by demonstrating the presence of molecularly preserved melanin in intimate association with melanosome-like microbodies isolated from an argentinoid fish eye from the early Eocene of Denmark.


  • Physical Sciences
  • Atom and Molecular Physics and Optics
  • Natural Sciences
  • Geology
  • Zoology


  • ISSN: 2041-1723
Dan-E Nilsson
E-mail: dan-e [dot] nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

+46 46 222 93 45

+46 70 623 10 64



Research group

Lund Vision Group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Phd Students, main supervisor


Downloads & links