A team of researchers recently found red blood cells in 75 million year old dinosaur fossils residing at museum in London. We are, unfortunately, not on our way to cloning T-Rexes.
Though one of the researchers admitted that the eight (8) fossils, belonging to different dinosaurs, initially looked more like garbage, a closer look at the remains (which were discovered over a century ago) revealed that they were hiding what scientists strongly believe to be red blood cells, as well as connective tissue.
Susannah Maidment, study co-leader and paleontologist at the University College London, gave a statement informing that “We have attempted to apply the correct amount of skepticism, but, yes, I think it’s fair to say that neither of us can think of anything else that these structures might be”. The other expert she is referring to is Sergio Bertazzo, co-leader of the study and biomedical physical scientist.
To reach this concluding they conducted various tests using microscopes and focused ion beam.
It is an unusual discovery as such soft tissue is not typically preserved in fossils dating back millions of years. What makes it even more remarkable is that these particular remains are not very well preserved at all – they’re individual broken bones.
A few other similar discoveries have been made in the past, however not all members of the scientific community gave them much thought as the tissue and blood cells were hiding in exceptionally well preserved fossils that require special pleading in order to determine just how they got preserved.
After paleontologists finish analyzing the samples, they could provide valuable inside into the physiology of dinosaurs, including answers to the much debated question of whether they were cold-blooded or warm-blooded or somewhere in between.
Samples that have already been examined have shown that the dinosaur blood cells share many similarities with those taken from living emu birds, which are direct descendants of dinosaurs.
Dr Maidment from the Imperial College London gave a statement saying that if experts are able to find red blood cells many other species of dinosaurs, they could start measuring them and figuring out which of the dinosaurs were warm-blooded and which were cold-blooded.
Susannah Maidment explained that if her and Bertazzo were able to find soft tissue samples in these poorly preserved fossils, this type of preservation might be the norm for dinosaur bones. She stresses that the remnants of soft tissue are not fossilized.
Not all of the remains harbor the same type of samples. While some of the red blood cells were found in a claw that researchers believe belonged to the forelimb of a meat-eater known as Gorgosaurus, other fossils were hiding traces of collagen, the main structural protein found in the bone, ligament and skin tissue of modern-day animals. Amino acids were also discovered.
Dr Maidment shares that the researchers have found no traces of DNA yet, however she also thinks that it’s unwise to assume they never will. But those hoping to see dinosaur clones in the future will still have their hopes crushed as paleontologists would require the complete genome in order to uncover where the holes in the DNA are.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.
Image Source: ibtimes.co.uk