REAL WORLD EVENT DISCUSSIONS

T. Rex Soft Tissue Found Preserved

POSTED BY: AURAPTOR
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 16:15
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Saturday, March 26, 2005 5:22 AM

AURAPTOR

America loves a winner!


Incredibly awesome!

** Hillary Mayell
for National Geographic News
March 24, 2005

A Tyrannosaurus rex fossil has yielded what appear to be the only preserved soft tissues ever recovered from a dinosaur. Taken from a 70-million-year-old thighbone, the structures look like the blood vessels, cells, and proteins involved in bone formation.

Most fossils preserve an organism's hard tissues, such as shell or bone. Finding preserved soft tissue is unheard of in a dinosaur-age specimen.

"To my knowledge, preservation to this extent—where you still have original flexibility and transparency—has not been noted in dinosaurs before, so we're pretty excited by the find," said Mary H. Schweitzer, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

The findings may provide new insights into dinosaur evolution, physiology, and biochemistry. They could also increase our understanding of extinct life and change how scientists think about the fossilization process.

"Finding these tissues in dinosaurs changes the way we think about fossilization, because our theories of how fossils are preserved don't allow for this [soft-tissue preservation]," Schweitzer said.

Uncovering T. Rex

For three years scientists from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, excavated the T. rex from sandstone at the base of the nearby Hell Creek formation. The dinosaur was relatively small and around 18 years old when it died.

"The dinosaur was under an incredible amount of rock," said Jack Horner, a curator of paleontology at the museum. "When it was collected, the specimen was very far away from a road, and everything had to be done by helicopter.

"The team made a plaster jacket to get part of the fossil out, and it was too big for the helicopter to lift. And so we had to take the fossil apart.

"In so doing, we had to break a thighbone in two pieces. When we did that, it allowed [Schweitzer] to get samples out of the middle of the specimen. You don't see that in most excavations, because every effort is made to keep the fossil intact," said Horner, a co-author of the study.

A certain amount of serendipity lead to the discovery.

Because the leg bone was deliberately broken in the field, no preservatives were added. As a result, the soft tissues were not contaminated.

The museum, which is a part of Montana State University, has a laboratory that specializes in cellular and molecular paleontology (the study of prehistoric life through fossil remains).

The study authors also looked at several other dinosaur fossils to see whether there was something unique about this particular T. rex fossil.

"There's nothing unique about the specimen other than the fact that it's the first that's been examined really well," Horner concluded. Other dinosaurs, in other words, are probably similarly preserved.

Soft Tissues

Schweitzer's background is in biology, and she performed a number of tests on the fossils that are common medical practices today.

The paleontologist and her colleagues removed mineral fragments from the interior of the femur by soaking it in a weak acid. The fossil dissolved, exposing a flexible, stretchy material and transparent vessels.

The vessels resemble blood vessels, cells, and the protein matrix that bodies generate when bones are being formed.

"Bone is living tissue, is very active tissue, and has its own metabolism and has to have a very good blood supply," Schweitzer said.

"So bone is infiltrated with lots and lots of blood vessels in its basic structure. When bone is formed, it's formed by cells that are specific for bone, that secrete proteins like collagen and form a matrix."

Further chemical analysis might enable the scientists to answer long-standing questions about the physiology of dinosaurs. For instance, were they warm-blooded, cold-blooded, or somewhere in between?

If protein sequences can be identified, they can be compared to those of living animals. This might allow a better understanding of how different groups of animals are related.

The find may potentially change field practices, perhaps by encouraging more scientists to reserve parts of fossils for cellular and molecular testing. **

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/03/0324_050324_trexsoftti
ssue.html


" They don't like it when you shoot at 'em. I worked that out myself. "

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Saturday, March 26, 2005 6:37 AM

FINN MAC CUMHAL


Wow. That's remarkable. But my first thought is to wonder if this fossil could have become contaminated with the tissue of a foreign species. Something burrowed into a fissure in the fossil and was buried a few hundred or a thousand years ago? Because if this is true Tyrannosaur tissue, it means it has remained in tact for at least 65 million years. That would seem to be quite remarkable indeed.

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Saturday, March 26, 2005 9:22 AM

RAT


So, when does biding start on the first bowl of T-Rex soup?

-Ratboy

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Saturday, March 26, 2005 10:06 AM

AURAPTOR

America loves a winner!


Quote:

So, when does biding start on the first bowl of T-Rex soup?

-Ratboy



As soon as you can track down a live T-Rex.

" They don't like it when you shoot at 'em. I worked that out myself. "

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Saturday, March 26, 2005 10:15 AM

ROBINHOOD


Smells like an April Fool :-)


Yep..........................that went well!

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Saturday, March 26, 2005 10:30 AM

INDIGO


Quote:

The find may potentially change field practices, perhaps by encouraging more scientists to reserve parts of fossils for cellular and molecular testing.


I read about this yesterday too -- it's so amazing! I had the wonderful privilege to work for Dr. Horner for some years during college; the man has the most astounding luck at discovering the unique. We're going to go visit him in May and I really look forward to hearing more about this find.

Japanese Windows error msg:
Screen.
Mind.
Both are Blank.

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Saturday, March 26, 2005 10:35 AM

FINN MAC CUMHAL


Quote:

Originally posted by robinhood:
Smells like an April Fool :-)

Stranger things have happened, but I think this is for real.

Here is the article if anyone is interested.

Schweitzer et al., “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex,” Science, Science, Vol 307, Issue 5717, 1952-1955, 25 March 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1108397].

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Saturday, March 26, 2005 10:09 PM

BARRY


Quote:

Because if this is true Tyrannosaur tissue, it means it has remained in tact for at least 65 million years.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's death was more recent.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005 4:30 AM

FINN MAC CUMHAL


Quote:

Originally posted by Barry:
Quote:

Because if this is true Tyrannosaur tissue, it means it has remained in tact for at least 65 million years.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's death was more recent.

Possibly. I'd be equally skeptical of that given the dating of most dinosaur fossils. As far as I know, and I’m no paleontologist, the oldest samples of soft tissue are not older then few millions years.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005 4:56 AM

AURAPTOR

America loves a winner!


Quote:

Originally posted by Barry:
Quote:

Because if this is true Tyrannosaur tissue, it means it has remained in tact for at least 65 million years.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's death was more recent.



Ah yes, a product of viewing the Flintstones as something based in reality ? No, T.Rex didn't die out all that recently. Man has never seen a living T.Rex,if that's what you're hinting at.

" They don't like it when you shoot at 'em. I worked that out myself. "

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Sunday, March 27, 2005 9:45 PM

JASONZZZ



Quote:


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.





These undated photos provided by the journal Science show demineralized fragments of tissues lining the marrow cavity of a Tyrannosaurus Rex femur. Photograph A shows the demineralized fragment is flexible and resilient and when stretched (arrow) returns to its original shape. Photograph B shows the demineralized bone in (A) after air drying. The overall structure and functional characteristics remain after dehydration. Photograph C shows regions of demineralized bone showing fibrous character (arrows). These characteristics are not normally seen in fossil bone. Scientists who had to break a dinosaur bone to remove it from its sandstone location say they have recovered 70-million-year-old soft tissues from inside the bone. The find included what appear to be blood vessels, and possibly even cells, from a Tyrannosaurus Rex. (AP Photo/Science)





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Sunday, March 27, 2005 10:37 PM

INDIGO


Thanks for the pictures! This is so great; I'm stoked. Jack always wanted to get DNA from the bones... thinking it might come from ice-core samples, but this... is terrific.
Singing to self "I want to go back in the field, I want to go back in the field."

Japanese Windows error msg:
Screen.
Mind.
Both are Blank.

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Monday, March 28, 2005 1:19 AM

BARRY


Quote:

Ah yes, a product of viewing the Flintstones as something based in reality ? No, T.Rex didn't die out all that recently. Man has never seen a living T.Rex,if that's what you're hinting at.
I wasn't hinting at dinosaurs mingling with people (though ancient stories of dragons are common in almost every culture), I was just speculating that if 65 million year old tissue is so unheard of, perhaps it isn't exactly that old. I know, I know, scientific heresy. Maybe most dinosaurs did die when scientists say they did, but perhaps some escaped the mass extinction and died out at a later date?

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Monday, March 28, 2005 5:52 AM

FINN MAC CUMHAL


I don’t believe in scientific heresy. What you are suggesting is not impossible, though probably unlikely. We have found animals thought to have been extinct in the Cretaceous living today. The idea of some small din of Tyrannosaurs living in isolation as late as a few million (or a few tens of thousands) years ago is a romantic notion, but not one for which there is much evidence, that I’ve seen. This point may be moot however. I haven’t read the article yet, but I’m guessing they have already dated the fossil. Either through stratigraphic means, which were probably done in the field, and/or radioisotope dating. Some of the things I’ve read claim the fossil is 70 million years old, but that number may just be a stick-in value. Someone may have just referenced the end of the Cretaceous as a 'latest possible' date.

It would be interesting to read the paper if I could just remember my AAAS password.

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Monday, March 28, 2005 6:39 AM

JASONZZZ


Quote:

Originally posted by Barry:
Quote:

Ah yes, a product of viewing the Flintstones as something based in reality ? No, T.Rex didn't die out all that recently. Man has never seen a living T.Rex,if that's what you're hinting at.
I wasn't hinting at dinosaurs mingling with people (though ancient stories of dragons are common in almost every culture), I was just speculating that if 65 million year old tissue is so unheard of, perhaps it isn't exactly that old. I know, I know, scientific heresy. Maybe most dinosaurs did die when scientists say they did, but perhaps some escaped the mass extinction and died out at a later date?



Maybe it's unheard of b/c no one recognized or knew what to do with those parts of the samples until recently - or more recent techniques and technologies made analyzing them possible. Or as Dr. Horner suggested that folks just don't like to break open their samples all that often.





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Monday, March 28, 2005 7:55 AM

HERO


Quote:

Originally posted by AURaptor:
Quote:

So, when does biding start on the first bowl of T-Rex soup?

-Ratboy



As soon as you can track down a live T-Rex.




Why would you want a live T-Rex in your soup.

You don't put live chickens in Chicken Noodle soup...

Does you Turkey Chili gobble? No.

What about clam chowder? What does a live clam do that a dead clam can't...at least in chowder as opposed to the ocean?

As for Mr. Rex, I wonder what it tastes like. The obvious answer is chicken, a giant carvivorous chicken capable of swallowing a grown man whole and do equally nasty things to the ladies, so T-Rex soup would have noodles, although I used to live in Pennsylvania and the PA Dutch do marvels with T-Rex/Chicken and corn in a soup setting.

H

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Monday, March 28, 2005 3:06 PM

SOUPCATCHER


Thanks for posting the article, AURaptor!

Fascinating! Awesome! Spectacular! I could go on and on.

And thanks JasonZZZ for the pictures. And Finn for the scientific details. And Indigo for some first person color commentary (Is it too much to hope for a paragraph after vacation with some inside details?).

I don't have anything substantive to add. Just thought this was way cool. I don't know what it is about dinosaurs, but I've always been fascinated about the topic.

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Monday, March 28, 2005 3:56 PM

MONTANAGIRL


Quote:

For three years scientists from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, excavated the T. rex from sandstone at the base of the nearby Hell Creek formation.

Just to clarify because this confused me when I first read it since I thought it implied the fossil was found near the Museum. Hell Creek is nowhere near Bozeman. All of the fossils are in north-central and eastern Montana. This one was found north of Jordan up near the Fort Peck Lake.

PS. Indigo, how cool is it that you've actually worked with Jack Horner. I'm totally jealous.

Packer fans welcome.
All others tolerated.

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Monday, March 28, 2005 9:44 PM

VETERAN

Don't squat with your spurs on.


Quote:

Originally posted by Barry:
Quote:

I wasn't hinting at dinosaurs mingling with people (though ancient stories of dragons are common in almost every culture), I was just speculating that if 65 million year old tissue is so unheard of, perhaps it isn't exactly that old. I know, I know, scientific heresy. Maybe most dinosaurs did die when scientists say they did, but perhaps some escaped the mass extinction and died out at a later date?



It's not necessarily heresey, but they probably have a good idea on the fossil's age based on the age of the rock formation where it was found. BTW "The Dinosaur Heresies" by Richard Bakker is a good read.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005 9:37 AM

XENOCIDE


Hero,

Last I heard (at the Smithsonean Museum of Natural History) a year or two ago T-rex was a bit of a carrion eater. Vulture soup anyone? And even if not a carrion eater, eating carnivores is best done in moderation. Me, I'll wait for the brontoburgers!

-Eli

If voting mattered, they'd make it illegal.
http://www.bcpl.net/~wilsonr/farpoint.html

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005 4:15 PM

RUE

I have a vote and I'm not afraid to use it!


I already thought this was cool, and then there were PICTURES, and extra info, and funny commentary, and it just got better and better. THANKS to all you Firefly fans !!!

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