Elemental maps generated by laser ablation–inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) provide a previously unavailable high-resolution visualization of the complex physicochemical conditions operating within individual bones during the early stages of diagenesis and fossilization. A selection of LA-ICP-MS maps of bones collected from the Late Cretaceous of Montana (United States) and Madagascar graphically illustrate diverse paths to recrystallization, and reveal unique insights into geochemical aspects of taphonomic history. Some bones show distinct gradients in concentrations of rare earth elements and uranium, with highest concentrations at external bone margins. Others exhibit more intricate patterns of trace element uptake related to bone histology and its control on the flow paths of pore waters. Patterns of element uptake as revealed by LA-ICP-MS maps can be used to guide sampling strategies, and call into question previous studies that hinge upon localized bulk samples of fossilized bone tissue. LA-ICP-MS maps also allow for comparison of recrystallization rates among fossil bones, and afford a novel approach to identifying bones or regions of bones potentially suitable for extracting intact biogeochemical signals.

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