Five immature sediments from a Messinian evaporitic basin, representing one evaporitic cycle, were studied using molecular organic sulphur and isotope geochemistry. It is shown that a specific carbon skeleton which is present in different 'modes of occurrence' ('free' hydrocarbon, alkylthiophene, alkylthiolane, alkyldithiane, alkylthiane, and sulphur-bound in macromolecules) may have different biosynthetic precursors which are possibly derived from different biota. It is demonstrated that the mode of occurrence and the carbon isotopic composition of a sedimentary lipid can be used to 'reconstruct' its biochemical precursor. This novel approach of recognition of the suite of palaeobiochemicals present during the time of deposition allows for identification of the biological sources with an unprecedented specificity
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