Publications

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2020

Rogers, C.S., Webb, S.M., McNamara, M.E., 2020. Synchrotron x‐ray fluorescence analysis reveals diagenetic alteration of fossil melanosome trace metal chemistry. Palaeontology, published online. DOI: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/pala.12506.

What’s it about? In this paper we use maturation experiments to show how thermal maturation, and external sources of metal ions, can change the trace element chemistry of eye melanosomes, explaining some of the chemical signatures we see in fossils.

Rossi, V., Webb, S.M., McNamara, M.E., 2020. Hierarchical biota-level and taxonomic controls on the chemistry of fossil melanosomes revealed using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence. Scientific Reports, 10, 8970. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-65868-3.

What’s it about? We report the discovery of internal melanosomes in fossil vertebrates older than the dinosaurs. The chemistry of the fossil melanosomes is linked to that of their host sediment, confirming that melanosome chemistry can be altered by geological processes.

McDonald, L.T., Narayanan, S., Sandy, A., Saranathan, V., McNamara, M.E., 2020. Brilliant angle-independent structural colours preserved in weevil scales from the Swiss Pleistocene. Biology Letters16, 20200063. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2020.0063.

What’s it about? In this paper we report the discovery of brilliant green colours preserved in the scales of a fossil weevil from Switzerland. The colours are produced by fossilized diamond-type photonic structures and were used for camouflage in leafy undergrowth.

Slater, T., Ashbrook, K., Kriwet, J., 2020. Evolutionary relationships among bullhead sharks (Chondrichthyes, Heterodontiformes). Papers in Palaeontology, 6, 425-437. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/spp2.1299.

What’s it about? This paper investigates the relationships and diversity of bullhead sharks through deep time and stresses the importance of using non-dental characters for taxonomic analyses of fossil sharks.

Tian, Q., Wang, S., Yang, Z., McNamara, M.E., Benton, M.J., Jiang, B., 2020. Experimental investigation of insect deposition in lentic environments and implications for formation of insect Konservat-Lagerstätten. Palaeontology, 63, 565-578. DOI: 10.1111/pala.12472.

What’s it about? We did experiments to help us understand how insects fossilize. In particular we studied how long fossil insects float at the water surface, and how easily ashfalls can submerge insects and cause them to sink.

2019

Rogers, C.S., Astrop, T.I.A., McNamara, M.E., Webb, S., Ito, S., Wakamatsu, K., 2019. Synchrotron-X-ray absorption spectroscopy of melanosomes in vertebrates and cephalopods: implications for the affinity of Tullimonstrum. Proceedings B, 286, 20191649. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1649.

What’s it about? We report that melanosomes in the eyes of invertebrates can be arranged by shape and size calling into question the idea that this feature is unique to vertebrates. We also used eye melanosome chemistry to work out which group of animals the bizarre fossil Tully monster belongs to.

Slater, T.S., McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Foley, T.B., Ito, S., Wakamatsu, K., 2019. Taphonomic experiments resolve controls on the preservation of melanosomes and keratinous tissues in feathers. Palaeontology, 63, 103-115. DOI: 10.1111/pala.12445.

What’s it about? We performed experiments on modern feathers to understand how they degrade. Our results reveal controls on the preservation of feather pigments in the fossil record and indicate that the feather protein keratin is likely to survive various fossilization processes.

Rossi, V., McNamara, M.E., Webb, S., Ito, S., Wakamatsu, K., 2019. Tissue-specific geometry and chemistry of modern and fossilized melanosomes reveal internal anatomy of extinct vertebrates. PNAS, 116, 17880-17889. DOI: doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1820285116.

What’s it about? We report the discovery of internal melanosomes in modern amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, and in fossils. These internal melanosomes differ in shape and chemistry in different organs, shedding light on the internal anatomy of ancient animals.

Benton, M.J., Dhouailly, D., Jiang, B., McNamara, M., 2019. The early origin of feathers. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 34, 856-869. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.04.018.

What’s it about? We reviewed current knowledge on the evolutionary origins of feathers over 200 million years ago in the Triassic Period, bringing together information from feathered dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and genetics.

Yang, Z.X., Jiang, B.Y., McNamara, M.E., Kearns, S.L., Pittman, M., Kaye, T.G., Orr, P.J., Xu, X., Benton, M.J., 2019. Pterosaur integumentary structures with complex feather-like branching. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 3, 24-30. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0728-7.

What’s it about? We reported the discovery of branched feathers in pterosaurs – flying reptiles that are the sister group (close cousins) to the dinosaurs. This pushes back feather origins over 70 million years to the Early Triassic.

Yang, Z., Wang, S., Tian, Q., Wang, B., Hethke, M., McNamara, M.E., Benton, M.J., Xu, X., Jiang, B., 2019. Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and biostratinomic analysis of the Jurassic Yanliao Lagerstätte in northeastern China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 514, 739-753. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2018.09.030.

What’s it about? We studied the sedimentary rocks that preserve fossils from the Jurassic fossil locality of Yanliao in NE China.

2018

Odin, G.P., McNamara, M.E., Arwin, H., Järrendahl, K., 2018. Experimental degradation of helicoidal photonic nanostructures in scarab beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae): implications for the identification of circularly polarizing cuticle in the fossil record. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 15, . DOI: .

What’s it about? We did experiments to help us understand whether microscopic colour-producing structures in the shells of scarab beetles can fossilize readily.

McNamara, M.E., Kaye, J.S., Benton, M.J., Orr, P.J., Rossi, V., Ito, S., Wakamatsu, K., 2018. Non-integumentary melanosomes bias reconstructions of the colours of fossil vertebrate skin. Nature Communications9, 2878. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05148-x.

What’s it about? We reported the discovery of melanosomes – tiny rounded structures rich in melanin – in the internal organs of modern and fossil frogs.  

McNamara, M.E., Zhang, F., Kearns, S.L., Orr, P.J., Toulouse, A., Foley, T., Hone, D.W.E., Rogers, C.S., Benton, M.J., Johnson, D., Xu, X., Zhou, Z., 2018. Fossilized skin reveals coevolution with feathers and metabolism in feathered dinosaurs and early birds. Nature Communications, 9, 2072. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04443-x.

What’s it about? We reported the discovery of fossil snake skin with all three types of pigment cell preserved, allowing us to reconstruct the snake’s original colour.

Zhang, Q., Mey, W., Ansorge, J., Starkey, T.A., McDonald, L.T., McNamara, M.E., Jarzembowski, E.A., Wichard, W., Kelly, R., Ren, X., Chen, J., Zhang, H., Wang, B., 2018. Fossil scales illuminate the early evolution of lepidopterans and structural colors. Science Advances, 4, e1700988. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700988.

What’s it about? We reported the discovery of structurally coloured scales in fossil moths from the Jurassic Period.

Purnell, M.A., Donoghue, P.J.C., Gabbott, S.E., McNamara, M., Murdock, D.J.E., Sansom, R.S., 2018. Experimental analysis of soft-tissue fossilization – opening the black box. Palaeontology, 61, 317-323. DOI: 10.1111/pala.12360.

What’s it about? We explained the best ways of doing experiments to understand fossilization.

2017

Muscente, A.D., Schiffbauer, J.D., Broce, J., Laflamme, M., O’Donnell, K., Boag, T.H., Meyer, M., Hawkins, A.D., Huntley, J.W., McNamara, M., MacKenzie, L.A., Stanley Jr., G.D., Hinman, N.W., Hofmann, M.H., Xiao, S., 2017. Exceptionally preserved fossil assemblages through geologic time and space. Gondwana Research, 48, 164-188. DOI: 10.1016/j.gr.2017.04.020. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2016

Mears, E., Rossi, V., MacDonald, E., Coleman, G., Davies, T., Arias-Riesgo, C., Hildebrandt, C., Thiel, H., Duffin, C.J., Whiteside, D.I., Benton, M.J., 2016. The Rhaetian (Late Triassic) vertebrates of Hampstead Farm Quarry, Gloucestershire, UK. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, published online 14/6/2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2016.05.003. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

Orr, P.J., Adler, L.B., Beardmore, S.R., Furrer, H., McNamara, M.E., Peñalver-Mollá, E., Redelstorff, R., 2016. “Stick ‘n’ peel”: Explaining unusual patterns of disarticulation and loss of completeness in fossil vertebrates. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, published online 24/5/2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.05.024. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Van Dongen, B., Bull, I., Orr, P.J., 2016. Fossilisation of melanosomes via sulfurization. Palaeontology, published online 1/4/2016. OPEN ACCESS DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1111/pala.12238. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Kearns, S.L., Alcalá, L., Anadón, P., Peñalver, E., 2016. Reconstructing carotenoid-based and structural coloration in fossil skin. Current Biology, published online 31/3/2016. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.02.038. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2015

Rogers, C.S., Hone, D.W., McNamara, M.E., Zhao, Q., Orr, P.J., Kearns, S.K., Benton, M.J., 2015. The Chinese Pompeii? Death and destruction of dinosaurs in the Early Cretaceous of Lujiatun, NE China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 427, 89-99. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.03.037. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2014

Godefroit, P., Sinitsa, S.M., Dhouailly, D., Bolotsky, Y.L., Sizov, A.V., McNamara, M.E., Benton, M.J., Spagna, P., 2014. Response to Comment on ‘A Jurassic ornithischian dinosaur from Siberia with both feathers and scales’. Science, 346, 434-435. DOI: 10.1126/science.1260146. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Saranathan, V., Locatelli, E., Noh, H., Briggs, D.E.G., Orr, P., Cao, H., 2014. Cryptic iridescence in a fossil weevil generated by single diamond photonic crystals. Journal Of The Royal Society Interface, 11, 20140736. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0736. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

Godefroit, P., Sinitsa, S.M., Dhouailly, D., Bolotsky, Y.L., Sizov, A.V., McNamara, M.E., Benton, M.J., Spagna, P., 2014. A Jurassic ornithischian dinosaur from Siberia with both feathers and scales. Science, 245, 451-455. DOI: 10.1126/science.1253351. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

Anderson, R.P., McCoy, V., McNamara, M.E.,2014. What big eyes you have: the ecological role of giant pterygotid eurypterids. Biology Letters, 10, 2040412. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0412. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2013

McNamara, M.E.,2013. The taphonomy of colour in fossil insects and feathers. Palaeontology, 56, 557-575. DOI: 10.1111/pala.12044. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Briggs, D.E.G., Orr, P.J., Field, D., Wang, Z., 2013. Experimental maturation of feathers: implications for reconstructions of fossil feather colour. Biology Letters, 9, published online before print 26/3/2013. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0184. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Briggs, D.E.G., Orr, P.J., Gupta, N.S., Locatelli, E.R., Qiu, L., Yang, H., Wang, Z., Noh, H., Cao, H., 2013. The fossil record of insect color illuminated by maturation experiments. Geology, 41, published online before print 20/2/2013. DOI: 10.1130/G33836.1. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2012

McNamara, M.E., Briggs, D.E.G., Orr, P.J., 2012. The controls on the preservation of structural color in fossil insects. Palaios, 27, 443-454. DOI: 10.2110/palo.2012.p12-027r. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Briggs, D.E.G., Orr, P.J., Noh, H., Cao, H., 2012. The original colours of fossil beetles. Proceedings of The Royal Society B, 279, 1114–1121. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1677. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Kearns, S., Alcalá, L., Anadón, P., Peñalver, E., 2012. What controls the taphonomy of exceptionally preserved taxa – environment or biology? A case study using exceptionally preserved frogs from the Miocene Libros Konservat-Lagerstätte, Spain. Palaios, 27, 63-77. DOI: 10.2110/palo.2010.p10-126r. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2011

McNamara, M.E., Briggs, D.E.G., Orr, P.J., Wedmann, S., Noh, H., Cao, H., 2011. Fossilized biophotonic nanostructures reveal the original colors of 47 million-year-old moths. PLoS Biology, 9, e1001200. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001200. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Manzocchi, T., Alcalá, L., Anadón, P. Peñalver, E., 2011. Biological controls upon the physical taphonomy of exceptionally preserved salamanders from the Miocene of Rubielos de Mora, northeast Spain. Lethaia, 45, 210-226. DOI: 10.1111/j.1502-3931.2011.00274.x. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2010

McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Kearns, S., Alcalá, L., Anadón, P., Peñalver, E., 2010. Organic preservation of fossil musculature with ultracellular detail. Proceedings of The Royal Society B, 277, 423-427. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1378. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2009

McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Kearns, S., Alcalá, L., Anadón, P., Peñalver, E., 2009. Exceptionally preserved tadpoles from the Miocene of Libros, Spain: Ecomorphological reconstruction and the impact of ontogeny upon taphonomy. Lethaia, 43, 290-306. DOI: 10.1111/j.1502-3931.2009.00192. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Kearns, S., Alcalá, L., Anadón, P., Peñalver, E., 2009. Soft tissue preservation in Miocene frogs from Libros (Spain): Insights into the genesis of decay microenvironments. Palaios, 24, 104-117. DOI: 10.2110/palo.2008.p08-017r. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!

2006

McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Kearns, S., Alcalá, L., Anadón, P., Peñalver, E., 2006. High fidelity preservation of bone marrow in c. 10 million year old amphibians. Geology, 34, 641-644. DOI: 10.1130/G22526.1. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF!