Articles | Volume 2, issue 2
17 Jun 2005
 | 17 Jun 2005

Non-invasive diagnostics in fossils - Magnetic Resonance Imaging of pathological belemnites

D. Mietchen, H. Keupp, B. Manz, and F. Volke

Abstract. For more than a decade, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been routinely employed in clinical diagnostics because it allows non-invasive studies of anatomical structures and physiological processes in vivo and to differentiate between healthy and pathological states, particularly of soft tissue. Here, we demonstrate that MRI can likewise be applied to fossilized biological samples and help in elucidating paleopathological and paleoecological questions: Five anomalous guards of Jurassic and Cretaceous belemnites are presented along with putative paleopathological diagnoses directly derived from 3D MR images with microscopic resolution. Syn vivo deformities of both the mineralized internal rostrum and the surrounding former soft tissue can be traced back in part to traumatic events of predator-prey-interactions, and partly to parasitism. Besides, evidence is presented that the frequently observed anomalous apical collar might be indicative of an inflammatory disease. These findings highlight the potential of Magnetic Resonance techniques for further paleontological applications.

Final-revised paper