t rex tissue, t rex blood, dinosaur blood, dinosaur soft tissue
Demineralized fragments of soft tissue from
the T Rex fossil found in 2005

Dinosaur “Blood” Found in 80 Million-Year-Old Fossil

May 04, 2009 07:40 AM
by Haley A. Lovett
Proteins from the fossilized femur of a duck-billed dinosaur, or hadrosaur, show that soft tissue can be extracted from old fossils, and may shed light on evolution.

Hadrosaur Soft Tissue May Explain Dinosaur Evolution

A group of paleontologists extracted a bone from Montana’s Judith River formation in hopes of finding preserved soft tissue in a fossil. According to an article in the journal Science, they found exactly what they were looking for.

The group, led in part by Mary Schweitzer, has not only found the structural protein collagen that they hoped to find, but they also seem to have extracted hemoglobin, elastin and laminin, along with structures similar to blood and bone cells. The team then compared the protein sequences of this animal to those of frogs and chickens.

The sequencing of the hadrosaur proteins will help scientists better understand the evolutionary relationships between dinosaurs and other animals, including humans. They have already seen that the sequence is in the same grouping as those of chickens and ostriches.

The findings are especially impressive because normally proteins in tissue are lost soon after the death of an animal, and the Brachylophosaurus Canadensis, or hadrosaur, bone in question is 80 million years old, according to Science. Schweitzer told Cosmos magazine that finding protein cells in such an old specimen shows that “we don’t really understand as much as we thought about how cells and tissues and molecules degrade in the protected environment of bone.”

Background: T-Rex soft tissue find of 2005 affirmed by new find

The tissue from the hadrosaur is not the first soft tissue extraction. In 2005, the same group of researchers extracted collagen from a T-rex fossil. The group was excavating a thighbone in Montana and was unable to remove it from the rock in one piece, when they broke the fossil they were able to take samples from the middle of the bone (something that isn’t usually done because paleontologists rarely break fossils).

However, when the group published their findings, they were met with harsh criticism and speculation from others in the field. One scientist, Tom Kaye, said that the “protein” was more likely residue from bacteria, not dino collagen.

It was because of this type of criticism that Schweitzer and her colleagues went back into the field to find more soft tissue samples. During the study of the hadrosaur tissue, the team took extra precaution, perfected their research method, and involved other labs in the study to help verify the findings.

Related Topics: Other great archeological preservation finds

In May of 2007, a reindeer herder named Yuri Khudi happened upon a nearly perfectly preserved woolly mammoth baby. The mammoth, named Lyuba after her discoverer’s wife, provided great insight into how the tusks of the mammoths could shed light on the animals age, diet and overall health, as her tusks were still attached to her body, and normally tusks are found independently of any body specimen.

Just this spring, Egyptian archeologists unearthed 4,000-year-old mummies from a pyramid, and may shed light on funeral customs of the time.

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