, Volume 94, Issue 3, pp 228-236
Date: 01 Dec 2006

Biomolecules preserved in ca. 168 million year old fossil conifer wood

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Abstract

Biomarkers are widely known to occur in the fossil record, but the unaltered biomolecules are rarely reported from sediments older than Paleogene. Polar terpenoids, the natural products most resistant to degradation processes, were reported mainly from the Tertiary conifers, and the oldest known are Cretaceous in age. In this paper, we report the occurrence of relatively high concentrations of ferruginol derivatives and other polar diterpenoids, as well as their diagenetic products, in a conifer wood Protopodocarpoxylon from the Middle Jurassic of Poland. Thus, the natural product terpenoids reported in this paper are definitely the oldest polar biomolecules detected in geological samples. The extracted phenolic abietanes like ferruginol and its derivatives (6,7-dehydroferruginol, sugiol, 11,14-dioxopisiferic acid) are produced only by distinct conifer families (Cupressaceae s. l., Podocarpaceae and Araucariaceae), to which Protopodocarpoxylon could belong based on anatomical characteristics. Therefore, the natural product terpenoids are of great advantage in systematics of fossil plant remains older than Paleogene and lacking suitable anatomical preservation.