3.24.2005

Real T-Rex Meat
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The soft tissue or 'meat' of a 70 million year old T-rex was recovered in Montana. This is remarkable as it represents the first known discovery of ephemeral dinosaur tissue in history.

In an instant, we have a snapshot into the Jurassic period. I suppose Michael Crichton was right. The implications of the finding are incredible:

(1) what can we learn about dinosaur DNA?
(2) we can compare tissue to birds and lizards
(3) we could, theoreticaly, learn to 'clone' such tissue

You can read more about the research here

But for now, here are some of the more interesting parts:

Brooks Hanson, a deputy editor of Science, noted that there are few examples of soft tissues, except for leaves or petrified wood, that are preserved as fossils, just as there are few discoveries of insects in amber or humans and mammoths in peat or ice.


Soft tissues are rare in older finds. "That's why in a 70-million-year-old fossil it is so interesting," he said.


Matthew Carrano, curator of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said the discovery was "pretty exciting stuff."


"You are actually getting into the small-scale biology of the animal, which is something we rarely get the opportunity to look at," said Carrano, who was not part of the research team.


In addition, he said, it is a huge opportunity to learn more about how fossils are made, a process that is not fully understood.


Richard A. Hengst of Purdue University said the finding "opens the door for research into the protein structure of ancient organisms, if nothing else. While we think that nature is conservative in how things are built, this gives scientists an opportunity to observe this at the chemical and cellular level." Hengst was not part of the research team.


John R. Horner of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University, said the discovery is "a fantastic specimen," but probably is not unique. Other researchers might find similarly preserved soft tissues if they split open the bones in their collections, said Horner, a co-author of the paper.


Most museums, he said, prefer to keep their specimens intact.



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