This study sets out to find an understanding of potential mechanisms that could permit preservation of soft-tissues in vertebrate fossils within the framework of geologic time.
The results of this study indicate that exquisite preservation of pliable soft-tissues may be related to a microbial masonry process whereby the formation of microbial biofilms wall off internal surfaces of bones during early taphonomic stages. These biofilms metabolize organic materials and mineralize, forming resistant structures or microbial masonry wall surfaces across internal pores openings in bones. These results have potential to allow for more detailed taphonomic reconstructions and contribute to a more nuanced understanding of fossil preservation in the form of soft-tissues structures and biomolecules.
The claim of the presence of primary soft-tissues in fossil vertebrates has been supported by the identification by mass spectroscopy of biomolecules in the form of collagen and proteins, However, these studies have failed to produce a potential mechanism for the preservation of soft tissues throughout geological time. The results presented here suggest an important role of microorganisms in taphonomic processes, notably for the preservation of primary soft-tissues within bone, through a microbial masonry process. Although biomolecular studies on soft-tissue extracts from fossil vertebrates have shown that the proposed alternative interpretation of primary soft-tissue as microbial biofilms is unlikely, biofilms may play a critical role in the preservation process.