Biominerals fossilisation: Fish bone diagenesis in plio–pleistocene african hominid sites of Malawi

Christiane Denys, Olga Otero, Ottmar Kullmer, Oliver Sandrock, Timothy G. Bromage, Friedemann Schrenk, Yannicke Dauphin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fish fossilisation is relatively poorly known, and skeletal element modifications resulting from predation, burial and diagenesis need to be better investigated. In this article, we aim to provide new results about surface, structural and chemical changes in modern and fossil fish bone. Fossil samples come from two distinct localities of roughly the same age in the Pliocene–Pleistocene Chiwondo Beds adjacent to Lake Malawi. Optical and scanning electron microscope (SEM) observations, energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) analyses and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometry were carried out on three categories of fish bones: (i) fresh modern samples collected in the lake, (ii) extracted from modern fish eagle regurgitation pellets, and (iii) fossils from Malema and Mwenirondo localities. A comparison of these data allowed us to detect various modifications of bone surfaces and structure as well as composition changes. Some differences are observed between fresh bones and modern pellets, and between pellets and fossils. Moreover, fossil fish bone surface modifications, crystallinity, and chemical composition from Malema and Mwenirondo differ despite their chronological and spatial proximities (2.5–2.4 Ma, 500 m). In both sites, the post-predation modifications are strong and may hide alterations due to the predation by bird of prey such as the fish eagle. The combination of the used methods is relevant to analyses of diagenetic alterations in fish bones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1049
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Fish bones
  • Pliocene–Pleistocene
  • Regurgitation pellets
  • Taphonomy
  • Tropical Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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