Unlocking preservation bias in the amber insect fossil record through experimental decay.
journal contributionposted on 2018-04-27, 12:47 authored by Victoria E. McCoy, Carmen Soriano, Mirko Pegoraro, Ting Luo, Arnoud Boom, Betsy Foxman, Sarah E. Gabbott
Fossils entombed in amber are a unique resource for reconstructing forest ecosystems, and resolving relationships of modern taxa. Such fossils are famous for their perfect, life-like appearance. However, preservation quality is vast with many sites showing only cuticular preservation, or no fossils. The taphonomic processes that control this range are largely unknown; as such, we know little about potential bias in this important record. Here we employ actualistic experiments, using, fruit flies and modern tree resin to determine whether resin type, gut microbiota, and dehydration prior to entombment affects decay. We used solid phase microextraction gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (SPME GC-MS) to confirm distinct tree resin chemistry; gut microbiota of flies was modified using antibiotics and categorized though sequencing. Decay was assessed using phase contrast synchrotron tomography. Resin type demonstrates a significant control on decay rate. The composition of the gut microbiota was also influential, with minor changes in composition affecting decay rate. Dehydration prior to entombment, contrary to expectations, enhanced decay. Our analyses show that there is potential significant bias in the amber fossil record, especially between sites with different resin types where ecological completeness and preservational fidelity are likely affected.
CitationPLoS One, 2018, 13 (4), e0195482
Author affiliation/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/School of Geography, Geology and the Environment/Physical Geography
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