Amino acids and proteins in fossil biominerals, FIRST by Beatrice Demarchi

New Analytical Methods in Earth and Environmental Science Series

Because of the plethora of analytical techniques now available, and the acceleration of technological advance, many earth scientists find it difficult to know where to turn for reliable information on the latest tools at their disposal, and may lack the expertise to assess the relative strengths or potential limitations of a particular technique. This new series will address these difficulties, and by providing comprehensive and up-to-date coverage, will rapidly become established as a trusted resource for researchers, advanced students and applied earth scientists wishing to familiarize themselves with emerging techniques in their field.

Volumes in the series will deal with:

See below for our full list of books from the series:

Boron Proxies in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology

Barbel Honisch, Stephen Eggins, Laura Haynes, Katherine Allen, Kate Holland, Katja Lorbacher

Structure from Motion in the Geosciences

Jonathan L. Carrivick, Mark W. Smith, Duncan J. Quincey

Ground-penetrating Radar for Geoarchaeology

Lawrence B. Conyers

Rock Magnetic Cyclostratigraphy

Kenneth P. Kodama, Linda A. Hinnov

Techniques for Virtual Palaeontology

Mark Sutton, Imran Rahman, Russell Garwood


An Introduction for Archaeologists and Palaeontologists




Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, University of Turin, Italy






PCG Logo

This edition first published 2020
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except as permitted by law. Advice on how to obtain permission to reuse material from this title is available at

The right of Beatrice Demarchi to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with law.

Registered Office(s)
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, USA
John Wiley & Sons Ltd, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, UK

Editorial Office
9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK

For details of our global editorial offices, customer services, and more information about Wiley products visit us at

Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats and by print-on-demand. Some content that appears in standard print versions of this book may not be available in other formats.

Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty
While the publisher and authors have used their best efforts in preparing this work, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties, including without limitation any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives, written sales materials or promotional statements for this work. The fact that an organization, website, or product is referred to in this work as a citation and/or potential source of further information does not mean that the publisher and authors endorse the information or services the organization, website, or product may provide or recommendations it may make. This work is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a specialist where appropriate. Further, readers should be aware that websites listed in this work may have changed or disappeared between when this work was written and when it is read. Neither the publisher nor authors shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data applied for
ISBN: 9781119089445 [hardback]

Cover Design: Wiley
Cover Image: © oxygen/Getty Images


This book is largely concerned with biominerals. In particular, it introduces the proteins responsible for biomineral formation and discusses the information these proteins may yield when surviving in the archaeological and palaeontological records.

The historical perspective on the study of proteins in biominerals (from the discovery of fragments of molecules entombed in fossils to the huge advances in shotgun proteomics that are currently underway) offers an exemplary tale of a research landscape that is becoming increasingly and essentially inter- and trans-disciplinary. Understanding the patterns of survival and degradation of biomolecules in the biogeosphere is the focus of palaeobiogeochemistry. However, the information we can gather from the extent of preservation or breakdown of these organics spans at least three fields of research: biomaterials (engineering), biochemistry and geochemistry (including geochronology and applications to archaeological, palaeontological, geological and palaeoclimatic questions), and evolutionary biology.

The author's own experience followed a trajectory beginning with cultural heritage and archaeological sciences, dipping into geology and analytical chemistry, then attempting to bring together new research in biomineralization and ancient proteins in order to elucidate mechanisms of protein survival. This volume reflects the cross-disciplinary interest of the author and aims to become a useful reference for postgraduate students and researchers embarking on a career as a biomolecular archaeologist or palaeontologist.

Chapter 1 briefly highlights the reasons for which studies in biomineralization are fundamental to understanding biomolecular survival in the fossil record, while Chapter 2 describes the main mechanisms of protein degradation. The composition of a range of biomineralized proteomes is summarized in Chapter 3, followed by a discussion on the two main applications of ancient protein studies, i.e. amino acid racemization/protein diagenesis dating (Chapter 4) and palaeoproteomics (Chapter 5).


I am deeply grateful to Matthew Collins, Darrell Kaufman, Frédéric Marin, Kirsty Penkman and John Wehmiller for their valuable comments on the text. All remaining mistakes are, of course, mine alone. Kirsty and Matthew, in particular, have been an immense source of scientific and personal inspiration over the years.

I also wish to acknowledge my colleagues and friends at BioArCh, University of York (UK), with whom I shared a vision of interdisciplinarity, and those at the University of Turin (Italy), who are supportive of my work.

The editors at Wiley have been a model of forbearance and I thank them for this.

I am incredibly fortunate for having the continuous and unwavering support of my family, for which I cannot thank them enough.