Friday, November 02, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #80 - Part 7

And Another Thing 5: Possible organic material in dinosaur fossils

If this pans out, this could be really exciting.

Twenty years ago, a paleontologist named Mary Schweitzer made what seemed to be a remarkable discovery. She was looking through a microscope at a slice of dinosaur bone and she noticed what looked for all the world like red blood cells. She thought this can't be right, because organic material is not supposed to survive fossilization - but test after test indicated that they were indeed blood cells from a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex.

In the years that followed, she and her colleagues discovered other apparent soft tissues, including what seem to be blood vessels and feather fibers.

Obviously, these findings were controversial. A lot of people dismissed them; one of the big argument, one of the big claims, was that what appeared to be organic tissues were actually what's called biofilm, which is slime formed by microbes that invaded the fossilized bone later on.

Schweitzer and her colleagues continued to amass support for their arguments. The latest evidence comes from a molecular analysis of what look to be bone cells from two different sorts of dinosaurs. The researchers isolated the cells and subjected them to several tests, which again seemed to indicate that all this was organic material.

The investigators also claim to have found amino acid sequences of proteins in extracts of the dinosaur bone that matched sequences from certain proteins that are present in the cells of all animals - and while some of these proteins are also found in bacteria that might have invaded the fossils, some of them aren't.

Schweitzer and her collaborators have detailed their latest findings in a paper released online October 16 and in a talk on October 17 at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

As part of her presentation, she showed a slide of what she said was all the evidence they had found that this material is really bioslime. The slide was blank.

Like I said, if this pans out, and it is still a real if, but if it does, we might be looking at dinosaur DNA. It wouldn't be Jurassic Park - but it would be damn cool.


No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');