A new high-resolution 3-D quantitative method for analysing small morphological features: an example using a Cambrian trilobite
Taphonomic processes play an important role in the preservation of small morphological features such as granulation or pits. However, the assessment of these features may face the issue of the small size of the specimens and, sometimes, the destructiveness of these analyses, which makes impossible carrying them out in singular specimen, such as holotypes or lectotypes. This paper takes a new approach to analysing small-morphological features, by using an optical surface roughness (OSR) meter to create a high-resolution three-dimensional digital-elevation model (DEM). This non-destructive technique allows analysing quantitatively the DEM using geometric morphometric methods (GMM). We created a number of DEMs from three populations putatively belonging to the same species of trilobite (Oryctocephalus indicus) that present the same cranidial outline, but differ in the presence or absence of the second and third transglabellar furrows. Profile analysis of the DEMs demonstrate that all three populations show similar preservation variation in the glabellar furrows and lobes. The GMM shows that all populations exhibit the same range of variation. Differences in preservation are a consequence of different degrees of cementation and rates of dissolution. Fast cementation enhances the preservation of glabellar furrows and lobes, while fast dissolution hampers preservation of the same structures.