Soft-Tissue, Rare Earth Element, and Molecular Analyses of Dreadnoughtus schrani, an Exceptionally Complete Titanosaur from Argentina

Elena R. Schroeter, Paul V. Ullmann, Kyle Macauley, Richard D. Ash, Wenxia Zheng, Mary H. Schweitzer, Kenneth J. Lacovara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Evidence that organic material preserves in deep time (>1 Ma) has been reported using a wide variety of analytical techniques. However, the comprehensive geochemical data that could aid in building robust hypotheses for how soft-tissues persist over millions of years are lacking from most paleomolecular reports. Here, we analyze the molecular preservation and taphonomic history of the Dreadnougtus schrani holotype (MPM-PV 1156) at both macroscopic and microscopic levels. We review the stratigraphy, depositional setting, and physical taphonomy of the D. schrani skeletal assemblage, and extensively characterize the preservation and taphonomic history of the humerus at a micro-scale via: (1) histological analysis (structural integrity) and X-ray diffraction (exogenous mineral content); (2) laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (analyses of rare earth element content throughout cortex); (3) demineralization and optical microscopy (soft-tissue microstructures); (4) in situ and in-solution immunological assays (presence of endogenous protein). Our data show the D. schrani holotype preserves soft-tissue microstructures and remnants of endogenous bone protein. Further, it was exposed to LREE-enriched groundwaters and weakly-oxidizing conditions after burial, but experienced negligible further chemical alteration after early-diagenetic fossilization. These findings support previous hypotheses that fossils that display low trace element uptake are favorable targets for paleomolecular analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1158
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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