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.