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Pushing the limits of neutron tomography in palaeontology: Three-dimensional modelling of in situ resin within fossil plants
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Paleobiology. Monash University.
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Research Office, Lucas Heights, Australia.
School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.
2017 (English)In: Palaeontologia Electronica, ISSN 1935-3952, E-ISSN 1094-8074, Vol. 20, no 3, p. 1-12, article id 20.3.57AArticle in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Computed tomography is an increasingly popular technique for the non-destructivestudy of fossils. Whilst the science of X-ray computed tomography (CT) has greatlymatured since its first fossil applications in the early 1980s, the applications and limitationsof neutron tomography (NT) remain relatively unexplored in palaeontology. Thesehighest resolution neutron tomographic scans in palaeontology to date were conductedon a specimen of Austrosequoia novae-zeelandiae (Ettingshausen) Mays and Cantrillrecovered from mid-Cretaceous (Cenomanian; ~100–94 Ma) strata of the ChathamIslands, eastern Zealandia. Previously, the species has been identified with in situ fossilresin (amber); the new neutron tomographic analyses demonstrated an anomalouslyhigh neutron attenuation signal for fossil resin. The resulting data provided astrong contrast between, and distinct three-dimensional representations of the: 1) fossilresin; 2) coalified plant matter; and 3) sedimentary matrix. These data facilitated ananatomical model of endogenous resin bodies within the cone axis and bract-scalecomplexes. The types and distributions of resin bodies support a close alliance withSequoia Endlicher (Cupressaceae), a group of conifers whose extant members areonly found in the Northern Hemisphere. This study demonstrates the feasibility of NTas a means to differentiate chemically distinct organic compounds within fossils.Herein, we make specific recommendations regarding: 1) the suitability of fossil preservationstyles for NT; 2) the conservation of organic specimens with hydrogenous consolidantsand adhesives; and 3) the application of emerging methods (e.g., neutronphase contrast) for further improvements when imaging fine-detailed anatomical structures.These findings demonstrate that we are still far from reaching the conceptuallimits of NT as a means of virtually extracting fossils, or imaging their internal anatomyeven when embedded within a rock matrix.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
California: Coquina Press , 2017. Vol. 20, no 3, p. 1-12, article id 20.3.57A
Keyword [en]
Neutron tomography, resin, seed cone, Cupressaceae, Cretaceous, conservation
National Category
Geosciences, Multidisciplinary Evolutionary Biology Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Ecosystems and species history
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nrm:diva-2742DOI: 10.26879/808OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nrm-2742DiVA, id: diva2:1173089
Funder
Australian Research Council, DP140102515
Note

Additional funders: This work was financially supported by the National Geographic Society [9761-15], the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation [P5521], and the Australian Research Council [DP140102515].

Available from: 2018-01-11 Created: 2018-01-11 Last updated: 2018-01-11Bibliographically approved

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Publisher's full texthttp://palaeo-electronica.org/content/2017/2066-neutron-scan-plant-resin

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