PSEUDOPATHOLOGY REVISITED: GEOLOGICAL NOISE VERSUS BIOLOGICAL SIGNAL
The implication seems to be that diagenetic shape changes should be relatively obvious to recognize. Although this is sometimes the case, distinction is not always a simple matter, and the potential for diagenetic distortion to complicate morphological interpretation may be expected to increase with geological age. Fossil bones are geological objects modified by often millions of years of non-biological processes. Moreover, because researchers investigating fossil paleopathology may be more biologically trained and less attuned to diagenetic modifications, it is useful to begin more specific documentation and codification of ways to recognize diagenetic pseudopathology. Observation of internal bone structure via histologic sampling or CT scanning is useful in distinguishing pathologic from diagenetic signals; however, such methods are either destructive or often cost-prohibitive and may not be appropriate for initial exploration.
In the absence of external reactive bone growth and/or resorption cavities, the potential for diagenetic rather than pathologic origin of unusual morphologies should always be considered. Context of the bones in the sedimentary deposit provides invaluable clues to diagenetic origins of morphological modifications. Quarry maps, recorded orientations of specimens within strata, data on geological evidence of distortion in host sediments, and any patterns of shape change within different parts of the same element and/or across multiple elements recovered from the same locality provide essential information to aid in assessing whether an unusual feature on an individual element is likely to be a pseudopathology.