Carbon speciation in organic fossils using 2D to 3D x-ray Raman multispectral imaging

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Science Advances  30 Aug 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 8, eaaw5019
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw5019


The in situ two-dimensional (2D) and 3D imaging of the chemical speciation of organic fossils is an unsolved problem in paleontology and cultural heritage. Here, we use x-ray Raman scattering (XRS)–based imaging at the carbon K-edge to form 2D and 3D images of the carbon chemistry in two exceptionally preserved specimens, a fossil plant dating back from the Carboniferous and an ancient insect entrapped in 53-million-year-old amber. The 2D XRS imaging of the plant fossil reveals a homogeneous chemical composition with micrometric “pockets” of preservation, likely inherited from its geological history. The 3D XRS imaging of the insect cuticle displays an exceptionally well preserved remaining chemical signature typical of polysaccharides such as chitin around a largely hollowed-out inclusion. Our results open up new perspectives for in situ chemical speciation imaging of fossilized organic materials, with the potential to enhance our understanding of organic specimens and their paleobiology.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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