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Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2004      A silicified bird from Quaternary hot spring deposits
Alan Channing, Mary Higby Schweitzer, John R. Horner and Terry McEneaney
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2004

The first avian fossil recovered from high-temperature hot spring deposits is a three-dimensional external body mould of an American coot (Fulica americana) from Holocene sinters of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. Silica encrustation of the carcass, feathers and colonizing microbial communities occurred within days of death and before substantial soft tissue degradation, allowing preservation of gross body morphology, which is usually lost under other fossilization regimes.We hypothesize that the increased rate and extent of opal-A deposition, facilitated by either passive or active microbial mediation following carcass colonization, is required for exceptional preservation of relatively large, fleshy carcasses or softbodied organisms by mineral precipitate mould formation. We suggest physico-chemical parameters conducive to similar preservation in other vertebrate specimens, plus distinctive sinter macrofabric markers of hot spring subenvironments where these parameters are met.

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