Organic molecules such as proteins can be preserved in certain fossils. The bulk properties of fossil proteins of both vertebrates and invertebrates have been studied for over half a century. Named proteins have so far been identified, however, only in vertebrate fossils, such as collagen from mammoth bones. Using immunological assays, we examined 1500 year old fossils of the extinct land snail Mandarina luhuana from the Bonin islands for the presence of dermatopontin, a molluscan shell matrix protein. First, we examined the shell microstructure and mineralogy of the fossil shells using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) in order to estimate the extent of diagenetic alteration. The results suggest that the original microstructure and mineralogy of the shells are preserved. Antiserum raised against the Type-1 dermatopontin fragment of the living land snail Euhadra brandtii showed significant immunological reactivity with the extracts from the fossil shells of M. luhuana. Immunological binding curves drawn for the shell extracts of extant M. aureola and the extinct M. luhuana confirmed the presence of dermatopontin in the fossil shells and provided an estimate that about 75-98% of the original dermatopontin was lost from the M. luhuana fossils. This is the first report of a named protein being identified in invertebrate fossils.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology