Navigation Links
NC State scientist finds soft tissue in T. rex bones

Conventional wisdom among paleontologists states that when dinosaurs died and became fossilized, soft tissues didn't preserve ?the bones were essentially transformed into "rocks" through a gradual replacement of all organic material by minerals. New research by a North Carolina State University paleontologist, however, could literally turn that theory inside out.

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, assistant professor of paleontology with a joint appointment at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, has succeeded in isolating soft tissue from the femur of a 68-million-year-old dinosaur. Not only is the tissue largely intact, it's still transparent and pliable, and microscopic interior structures resembling blood vessels and even cells are still present.

In a paper published in the March 25 edition of the journal Science, Schweitzer describes the process by which she and her technician, Jennifer Wittmeyer, isolated soft organic tissue from the leg bone of a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex.

Schweitzer was interested in studying the microstructure and organic components of a dinosaur's bone. All bone is made up of a combination of protein (and other organic molecules) and minerals. In modern bone, removing the minerals leaves supple, soft organic materials that are much easier to work with in a lab. In contrast, fossilized bone is believed to be completely mineralized, meaning no organics are present. Attempting to dissolve the minerals from a piece of fossilized bone, so the theory goes, would merely dissolve the entire fossil.

But the team was surprised by what actually happened when they removed the minerals from the T. rex femur fragment. The removal process left behind stretchy bone matrix material that, when examined microscopically, seemed to show blood vessels, osteocytes, or bone building cells, and other recognizable organic features.

Since current data indicates that living birds are more closely related to dinosaurs than any othe r group, Schweitzer compared the findings from the T. rex with structures found in modern-day ostriches. In both samples, transparent branching blood vessels were present, and many of the small microstructures present in the T. rex sample displayed the same appearance as the blood and bone cells from the ostrich sample.

Schweitzer then duplicated her findings with at least three other well-preserved dinosaur specimens, one 80-million-year-old hadrosaur and two 65-million-year-old tyrannosaurs. All of these specimens preserved vessels, cell-like structures, or flexible matrix that resembled bone collagen from modern specimens.

Current theories about fossil preservation hold that organic molecules should not preserve beyond 100,000 years. Schweitzer hopes that further research will reveal exactly what the soft structures isolated from these bones are made of. Do they consist of the original cells, and if so, do the cells still contain genetic information? Her early studies of the material suggest that at least some fragments of the dinosaurs' original molecular material may still be present.

"We may not really know as much about how fossils are preserved as we think," says Schweitzer. "Our preliminary research shows that antibodies that recognize collagen react to chemical extracts of this fossil bone. If further studies confirm this, we may have the potential to learn more not only about the dinosaurs themselves, but also about how and why they were preserved in the first place."

The research was funded by NC State, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

"Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex"
Authors: Mary H. Schweitzer and Jennifer L. Wittmeyer, North Carolina State University; John R. Horner, Montana State University; Jan B. Toporski, Carnegie Institution of Washington Geophysical Laboratory Published: March 25, 2005, in Science


'"/>

Source:North Carolina State University


Related biology news :

1. K-State professors discover enzyme responsible for creation of a beetles hard shell
2. NC State researchers redesign life for Mars and beyond
3. K-State researchers study insects immune system
4. K-State researchers study gene regulation in insects
5. K-Staters design and build a low-cost remote sensing tool for environmental studies
6. Iowa State researchers improving plastics made from corn and soy proteins
7. Investment level in HIV prevention programs related to HIV incidence in the United States
8. Iowa State University botanists identify new species of North American bamboo
9. ConocoPhillips establishes $22.5M biofuels research program at Iowa State
10. Iowa State scientists demonstrate first use of nanotechnology to enter plant cells
11. Wisconsin scientists grow critical nerve cells
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:4/26/2016)... and LONDON , April ... part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary of ... today announced a partnership to integrate the Onegini ...      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) ... their customers enhanced security to access and transact ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... Research and Markets has announced ... 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  , ... global gait biometrics market is expected to grow ... 2016-2020. Gait analysis generates multiple variables ... to compute factors that are not or cannot ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... March 31, 2016  Genomics firm Nabsys has completed ... Barrett Bready , M.D., who returned to the ... original technical leadership team, including Chief Technology Officer, ... Development, Steve Nurnberg and Vice President of Software and ... company. Dr. Bready served as CEO of ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/24/2016)... ... May 24, 2016 , ... Media Cybernetics, global image ... Cybernetics corporate branding reflects a results-driven revitalization for a company with a renewed ... components include a crisp, refreshed logo and a new web presence. , “I ...
(Date:5/23/2016)... WARSAW, Ind. , May 23, 2016 Zimmer ... in musculoskeletal healthcare, today announced that its Board of Directors ... stockholders for the second quarter of 2016. ... on or about July 29, 2016 to stockholders of record ... Future declarations of dividends are subject to approval of the ...
(Date:5/23/2016)... ... May 23, 2016 , ... RoviSys, a leading ... in Aurora, Ohio, has broken ground on a new building in Holly Springs, ... area, this new location solidifies a commitment to business in the region. The ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... ... May 20, 2016 , ... The leading Regenerative Veterinary ... most experienced veterinary clients have treated over 100 of their own patients with the ... provide the highest level of care for their patients. , The veterinarians are ...
Breaking Biology Technology: