Skip to content

Preservation of feather fibers from the Late Cretaceous dinosaur Shuvuuia deserti raises concern about immunohistochemical analyses on fossils

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-151
Number of pages10
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Early online date1 Nov 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Sep 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2018
DatePublished (current) - Nov 2018


White fibers from a Late Cretaceous dinosaur Shuvuuia deserti stained positive for β-keratin antibodies in a 1999 paper, followed by many similar immunological claims for Mesozoic protein in bones and integument. Antibodies recognize protein epitopes derived from its tertiary and quaternary structure, so such results would suggest long polypeptide preservation allowing for sequencing with palaeobiological implications. However, proteins are relatively unstable biomacromolecules that readily hydrolyze and amino acids exhibit predictable instability under diagenetic heat and pressure. Furthermore, antibodies can yield false positives. We reanalyzed a Shuvuuia fiber using focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry, and laser-stimulated fluorescence imaging, finding it to be inorganic and composed mainly of calcium phosphate. Our findings are inconsistent with any protein or other original organic substance preservation in the Shuvuuia fiber, suggesting that immunohistochemistry may be inappropriate for analyzing fossils due to issues with false positives and a lack of controls.

    Research areas

  • Antibodies, Calcium phosphate, Feathers, Fossils, Keratin, Protein

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Elsevier at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 9.95 MB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY-NC-ND


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups