Apparent Discovery of Dino Blood May Finally Prove the Tissue Preserves

By Rachel Cernansky | May 1, 2009 2:31 pm

dinosaur bloodContinuing the controversy over whether tissue can be extracted from fossils, cell-like structures resembling blood cells have been found in the leg bone of a dinosaur excavated from a Montana site. The researchers, led by Mary Schweitzer, have sequenced a set of proteins belonging to the 80-million-year-old remains of a duck-billed hadrosaur…. confirmed the presence of collagen, laminin and elastin proteins from the bone…. [and] independently verified amino acids in dinosaur tissues [GenomeWeb].

In 2007, Schweitzer first reported finding soft tissue, and then collagen, from the leg bone of a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex excavated two years prior. But her team’s research later proved controversial, with some questioning whether the samples they had obtained had become contaminated with proteins from modern species [Nature News]. So the team set out to replicate its findings, and searched for dinosaur fossils buried in deep sandstones, which were likely to be well preserved, and they speeded up the process of getting them from the field to the lab [Cosmos].

The team conducted thorough tests of the sample and sequenced the proteins with mass spectrometry, then confirmed the results independently with two different labs. Not wanting to repeat the skepticism and controversy of two years ago, John Asara, one of the researchers, is making public immediately the nearly 27,800 spectra from which the collagen proteins were identified. A similar cache of 48,000 spectra wasn’t made available for the T. rex specimen until more than a year after the initial publication, prompting criticism from some researchers [Nature News]. In addition to finding collagen and individual proteins, the team has also reported finding cell-like structures resembling blood and bone cells. The proteins should reveal more about dinosaur evolution because they vary much more between species [New Scientist].

Asara said the results, published in Science, should show that the previous study “was not a unique occurrence…. This is the second dinosaur species we’ve examined and helps verify that our first discovery was not just a one-hit wonder” [GenomeWeb]. He added that the study also “shows that the ability to study fossils at the molecular level is possible” [Cosmos].

Related Content:
80beats: Researchers Debate: Is It Preserved Dinosaur Tissue, or Bacterial Slime?
DISCOVER: Schweitzer’s Dangerous Discovery
DISCOVER: Paleontology chronicles Schweitzer’s work

Image: Mary H. Schweitzer. Hadrosaur red blood “cells” surrounded by white, fibrous matrix.

  • Dr. Grant

    If they really wanted Dino blood they should be looking for Jurassic mosquitos trapped in tree sap!

  • Nick

    One day I will saddle up a tyrannosaur and ride him down the free-way.

    One day.

  • james

    this is what young-earth creationist wackos want to hear

  • carmen

    very interesting still cant clone a dino yet though.

  • chris

    And why would you want to clone a dino exactly?

    For the novelty of it?

  • Coldpress

    The point being missed ( they were correct the first time! ).

  • Mike

    Nick Said: “One day I will saddle up a tyrannosaur and ride him down the free-way.”

    You can do that today… they’re called ‘SUVs’.

  • Bob Snyder

    Chris, Why wouldn’t you want to clone a dino?

  • zach

    Seriously, all of the worst things about cloning a dino are still awesome. We wouldn’t have to deal with this fear mongering crap about Swine Flu, “Tonight at 11, F&^%ing Dinosaurs.”

  • Daniel M


  • Jason

    Mmmm. T-Rex steak. Just imagine the delicious prehistoric flavor. Uh oh, I think just stumbled upon a venture capitalist idea! (and a pitch line)

  • smitter

    Considering it is impossible for blood/cells to live millions of years… how is this feasible?

  • Luis Plata

    Nobody said these cells were living.

  • Jonathan

    Walking a Dino Imagine the size of the pooper scoper “yikes”

  • Gods Jedi

    Here’s the really big deal (from a wacko Creationist) — Note that they said the original T-Rex tissues were not a “one hit wonder.” This means there are very likely many more tissues in many more fossils that expected. Chances are they can even get some from entirely different species (such as avian, fish, reptile, mammal — etc.) Watch and see. When they start finding tissues in all kinds of fossils, then the questions will really begin.

    Anyone who is willing to open their eyes will realize that tissues cannot last millions of years. Therefore, these samples are simply not that old.

  • Terry Nickell

    why is this ‘research” being funded with public monies, our country is in very serious economic peril; millions losing homes, foreclosures, millions underwater mortages, massive unemployment, and these individuals are studying—dinosaurs?!?!?! if they want to be students and study the dinosaur, let them write a personal check or get private funding to “study” dinosaur. what a joke, secondly, most “research” is fraud, they “publish” in journals to which they know the reviewers, editors, etc…. they “publish” not to promote/advance science, rather, they “publish” to promote their own mediocre academic “careers”. self grandisement, via white collar welfare dollars. aaah, the american dream.

  • Miguel

    To the whacko calling himself God’s Jedi, anyone willing to do some basic research will see that the age of the fossils was never in question – and still isn’t. That’s because their age is independently corroborated by stratigraphy, radioisotope dating etc. What Schweizer et al have proved is that despite millions of years, soft tissue in the form of molecules, and individual cells can and is preserved deep within the fossilized bone of some dinosaurs. Despite wishful thinking creationists still can’t make the existing data & science prove a young earth.

    To the neanderthal Terry Nickel, pure research in all scientific fields is what makes your nation a leader in science. For your information, government funds very little paleontological science. It is funded by people & organizations that actually care about this. The competition for such grants is fierce and it is wonder any science gets done. As for mediocre careers, these scientists will be remembered for their works a lot longer than you will.


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