[en] Specimens of Miocene fossil wood from the Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse karsts (southern Belgium) were examined using physicochemical and biochemical techniques in order to understand the reasons for the exceptional preservation of these fossilized remains after 15 million years. Structural and chemical changes were assessed by comparing the structural features of the fossil samples with those of their modern counterpart, Metaseguoia. Solid state C-13 nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and microscopic analysis showed good preservation of the cellulose structure in the fossil wood from the Florennes peat deposit. Despite the substantial cellulose fraction available in the fossil tissue, an enzymatic degradation test and a biochemical methane potential assay showed that the fossil cellulose could not be degraded by cellulases and anaerobic microorganisms usually involved in the biodegradation of organic matter. Moreover, the cellulose structure (crystallinity and surface area) seemed to have no effect on cellulose biodegradability in these Miocene fossil wood samples. On the basis of our observations, we suggest that the presence of a modified lignin structure could greatly influence cellulose preservation/biodegradability.
Centre Wallon de biologie Industrielle
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