Special Issue "Recent Advances in Bone Diagenesis"

A special issue of Minerals (ISSN 2075-163X). This special issue belongs to the section "Biomineralization and Biominerals".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2023 | Viewed by 2455

Special Issue Editors

Department of Geology, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ 08028, USA
Interests: vertebrate paleontology; taphonomy; trace element geochemistry; molecular paleontology; paleoecology
The Children’s Museum of Indianpolis, 3000 N Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46208, USA
Interests: paleopathology; paleohistology; bone chemistry; bone taphonomy and diagenesis

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The vertebrate fossil record entices both young and old to learn more about the history of this remarkable planet we share and the Nature of Earth as an active system. Over the last 150 years, studies of vertebrate fossils have advanced our understanding of everything from historical geology to organismal biology, ecologic responses to climate change, and evolution (including our own). Moreover, given their popularity, fossils of vertebrate organisms often form the centerpieces of natural history museum exhibits, where they capture the imagination of current and future scientists on a daily basis. Yet, all of this significance of fossil vertebrates could not exist if their bones, teeth, and scales did not survive the torments of burial and diagenesis.

From the mineralogical perspective, bone is a complex, 3D network of non-stoichiometric hydroxyapatite, while from the biological perspective it is a composite tissue living in dynamic equilibrium. During life, it has the ability to respond to its external environment, constantly shifting and morphing over time in response to physiologic and physical stimuli. However, after death and burial, bone is cast into a mysterious realm of relative obscurity. Microbes attack, groundwaters permeate, isotopes exchange, and bone either surrenders to dissolution or adapts into a transformed version of itself which is attuned to its subterranean environment.

Despite decades of research into how bone fossilization occurs, the processes operating at both visual and submicron scales remain topics of active discussion. Actualistic experiments as well as histologic, elemental, and isotopic studies have each offered clues, but the physicochemical mechanisms which can preserve original crystallites and biomolecules within fossil bones are still ripe for investigation. Paleontologists have traditionally advanced this line of research, but expertise from geochemists, geomicrobiologists, and materials scientists are all needed to fully elucidate the myriad factors at play in bone diagenesis.

In this Special Issue, we highlight recent groundbreaking advances in the study of diagenesis and the fossilization of bones, teeth, and other bioapatitic structures. We hope that this multidisciplinary compendium will spur new interest in this topic and serve as a valuable resource for students and specialists alike. Manuscripts are welcome which discuss topics including, but not limited to:

  1. The transformation of bone from a living tissue to a stable fossil.
  2. Mineralogic transformations occurring during the fossilization of bones and teeth.
  3. Novel applications of trace elements to understanding the diagenetic history of vertebrate fossils.
  4. New analytical approaches to studying the diagenesis of vertebrate remains.
  5. Results of new actualistic experiments concerning bone diagenesis.
  6. Recognition of diagenetic alterations to, and interpretation of, stable isotopic data from fossil bones, teeth, and other bioapatitic structures.
  7. Advances in constraining the types and timings of diagenetic events affecting vertebrate fossils.
  8. Microbial interactions with bone after death and burial.
  9. New insights into comparative taphonomy and diagenesis of bone in natural depositional environments (i.e., taphonomic modes).
  10. The molecular taphonomy of bones and teeth, including controls on biomolecule preservation within such fossils.

Submissions are encouraged from all, especially early-career scientists and researchers who are members of underrepresented communities. We look forward to receiving your submission.

Dr. Paul V. Ullmann
Dr. Jennifer Anné
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Minerals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • diagenesis
  • vertebrate taphonomy
  • geochemistry
  • stable isotopes
  • molecular paleontology
  • histology

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Actualistic Testing of the Influence of Groundwater Chemistry on Degradation of Collagen I in Bone
Minerals 2023, 13(5), 596; https://doi.org/10.3390/min13050596 - 25 Apr 2023
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Recent experiments have heightened our understanding of reactions which can stabilize biomolecules during early diagenesis, yet little remains known about how groundwater chemistry can aid or hinder molecular preservation within a bone through geologic time. To elucidate this issue, we conducted actualistic experiments [...] Read more.
Recent experiments have heightened our understanding of reactions which can stabilize biomolecules during early diagenesis, yet little remains known about how groundwater chemistry can aid or hinder molecular preservation within a bone through geologic time. To elucidate this issue, we conducted actualistic experiments of bone decay employing varied fluid compositions to simulate a suite of groundwaters. Modern domestic chicken (Gallus gallus) femora were placed in a matrix of compositionally- and texturally-mature, fluvially-deposited sand. To simulate groundwater flow, deionized water or solutions enriched in calcium carbonate, phosphate, or iron were percolated through separate trials for a period of 90 days. After completion of the experiment, degradation of the bones was examined via histologic thin sectioning and two immunoassays against collagen I, the primary bone structural protein: immunofluorescence and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Collagen loss was found to be greatest in the iron trial and least in the calcium carbonate trial, the latter of which experienced partial permineralization with calcite over the course of the experiment. Specifically, the iron trial was found to retain only ~35 ng of collagen I per 100 ng of protein extract, whereas the calcium carbonate trial retained ~90 ng of collagen I. Further, in the iron and calcium carbonate trials, cementation of sediment onto bone surfaces preferentially occurred over more porous regions of the epiphyses, perhaps stimulated by greater release of decay compounds from these regions of the bones. Of the two trials exhibiting intermediate results, the phosphate trial induced slightly greater decay of collagen than the deionized water control, which retained ~60 ng and ~80 ng of collagen I per 100 ng of protein extract, respectively. These results demonstrate that highly acidic conditions during early diagenesis can overwhelm any preservative effects of free radical-mediated stabilization reactions, whereas early-diagenetic permineralization can drastically slow biomolecular decay (ostensibly by hampering microbial access to the interior of a bone), thereby increasing the likelihood of a bone to retain biomolecules and/or their decay products through protracted diagenesis. Future variations of this actualistic experiment employing varied durations, solute concentrations, bacterial communities, pH values, and/or host sediments could provide further important insights into the ways in which early-diagenetic environments control the initial decay of biomolecules within bone and other tissues. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances in Bone Diagenesis)
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

  1. Jasmina Wiemann, Yale University
  2. Mary Schweitzer, North Carolina State University
  3. Laszlo Kocsis, University of Lausanne
  4. Daigo Yamamura, University of Arkansas
  5. Caitlyn Colleary, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
  6. Dennis Terry, Temple Univeristy
  7. Kyle Macauley, University of Arkansas
  8. Ioannis Kontopoulos, University of Copenhagen
  9. John Ejnik, University of Wisconsin-Waterfall
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