A new paper:
Mary Higby Schweitzer, Elena R. Schroeter, Timothy P. Cleland & Wenxia Zheng (2019)
Paleoproteomics of Mesozoic dinosaurs and other Mesozoic fossils.
PROTEOMICS (advance online publication)
Molecular studies have contributed greatly to our understanding of evolutionary processes that act upon virtually every aspect of the biology of living organisms. These studies are limited with regard to extinct organisms, particularly those from the Mesozoic, because fossils pose unique challenges to molecular workflows, and because prevailing wisdom suggests no endogenous molecular components can persist into deep time. Here, using the lens of the iconic nonâavian dinosaurs and their closest relatives, we discuss molecular methods that have been applied to Mesozoic fossils, and the challenges inherent in such studies. We address taphonomic processes resulting in the transition of a living organism from the biosphere to the fossil record, and their possible effects on downstream analyses, then consider the history of molecular studies applied to ancient remains. We evaluate these studies with respect to producing phylogenetically and/or evolutionarily significant data, address the limits and challenges on molecular studies in very old (>1 million years, Ma) material, and the complications of such analyses induced by molecular modifications and limits on comparative databases. Finally, we propose criteria for assessing the presence of endogenous biomolecules in ancient fossil remains as a starting framework for such studies, and conclude by discussing the power and potential of a molecular approach to Mesozoic fossils.