Differentiating taphonomic and paleopathological features in Vertebrate Paleontology: a study case with Quaternary mammals

Abstract

The recognition of taphonomic alterations is an important step previously to any paleopathological analysis, as some taphonomic features can simulate pathological change on bones. This is a difficult task, but there are some diagnostic criteria that can be used to differentiate them. Here we demonstrate how these features can be macroscopically distinguished using skeletal remains of Quaternary mammals as a model and pointing out how some specific pathological bone changes and diseases can be misinterpreted as taphonomic features (e.g. abrasion marks, corrosion marks, incrustation, post-mortem breakages, and punctures). Although this study has been specifically conducted with Quaternary mammals, the criteria used herein can be employed to any other fossil mammal of equivalent body mass and bone size.

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq; Grants: 150968/2017-5). HIAJr thanks to the financial support provided by FAPERJ (process # E-26/203.176/2017). We thank Museu Câmara Cascudo of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (MCC/UFRN), Museu de Ciências da Terra of the Serviço Geológico do Brasil (MCTer/CPRM) and Museu de Ciências Natural of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica of Minas Gerais (MCL/PUC-MG) that gently give us access to the material studied in this work. We also greatly appreciate the comments provide by the L.P. Bergqvist, the anonymous reviewer and editor-in-chief, Mike Reich (Munich) that improved the manuscript significantly.

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Correspondence to Fernando Henrique de Souza Barbosa.

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Handling Editor: Irina Ruf.

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de Souza Barbosa, F.H., da Silva, L.H.M. & de Araújo-Júnior, H.I. Differentiating taphonomic and paleopathological features in Vertebrate Paleontology: a study case with Quaternary mammals. PalZ 94, 595–601 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12542-019-00495-6

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Keywords

  • Paleopathology
  • Taphonomy
  • Ante-mortem
  • Post-mortem
  • Fossil mammals
  • Pseudopaleopathology