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Published August 1, 1976 | public
Journal Article Open

Characterization of 80-Million-Year-Old Mollusk Shell Proteins


Fossil glycoproteins of the soluble organic matrix are present in an 80-million-year-old mollusk shell from the Late Cretaceous Period. Discrete molecular weight components, as determined by gel electrophoresis, are preserved. The fossil organic matrix was compared with the organic matrix of a living representative species of the same superfamily. A particular repeating amino acid sequence, found in contemporary mollusk shell proteins, was identified in the fossil glycoproteins. The ultrastructure, mineralogy, and chemistry of the inorganic components of the fossil and contemporary shells provide information on the state of preservation of the fossil. The use of fossil shell proteins to further our understanding of molecular evolution is discussed.

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Copyright © 1976 by the National Academy of Sciences Communicated by Leon T. Silver, May 21, 1976 We thank S. Stevenson for the shells of Neotrigonia margaritacea, S. Savin and C. Emiliani for the oxygen and carbon isotopic determinations, and N.F. Sohl for informing us about the generic assignment of the Late Cretaceous species. F. Stehli participated in the recovery of fresh shells of S. thoracica and A. Chodos performed the electron probe analyses of the trace elements. G. E. Pollock analyzed the amino acid racemization states. This study was supported in part by NSF Grant DE575-08659 to H.A.L. and NSF Grant PCM71-00770 to L.H. This work is Contribution no. 2715, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. 91125.


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