Fossil Squid Ink

Submitted by Matt Williams on

Amongst the, now famous, fossils of the Strawberry Bank Lagerst├Ątte are a collection of cephalopod fossils, many of which contain the remains of their ink sac. Dr Jakob Vinther of the University of Bristol is sampling small portions of this ink from fossils of varying age in which such material is preserved. He is working upon the preservation of melanin in fossils and how this evidence can be used to reconstruct colour patterns in feathered dinosaurs. Most animal pigments are a mix of Eumelanin (black or brown) and Pheomelanin (pink or red), but cephalopod ink is pure eumelanin allowing him to study how the molecule is altered by varying geological conditions and times, and by extension to better understand the preservation of traces of colour in the fossil record. You can read more about his work here:

We were more than happy to contribute a few small samples to his study, and we had an opportunity to discuss the research potential of some of the interesting soft tissue preservation in the other Strawberry Bank specimens.

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