Washington, May 1 (ANI): A new study has confirmed that ancient protein dating back 80 million years to the Cretaceous geologic period has been preserved in bone fragments and soft tissues of a hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur.
Led by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and North Carolina State University (NCSU), the new findings support earlier results from analyses suggesting that collagen protein survived in the bones of a well preserved Tyrannosaurus rex, and offer robust new evidence supporting previous conclusions that birds and dinosaurs are evolutionarily related.
"With this new paper, we hoped to show that our T. rex discovery was not a unique occurrence," said John Asara, Director of the Mass Spectrometry Core at BIDMC, who is also an Instructor in Pathology at Harvard Medical School.
"This is the second dinosaur species we've examined and helps verify that our first discovery was not just a one-hit wonder. Our current study was the collaborative effort of a number of independent laboratories, whose findings collectively add up to a robust conclusion," he added.
At the heart of the controversy is the idea that ancient protein can exist at all.
When an animal dies, protein immediately begins to degrade and, in the case of fossils, is slowly replaced by mineral, a substitution process assumed to be complete by 1 million years.
But, with this latest evidence, it appears that some proteins do indeed have real staying power.
"We wound up identifying nearly double the number of amino acids we recovered in the T. rex study," said Asara. "The sequences displayed high spectral quality and the interpretations were of high confidence," he added.
The two scientists had decided to collaborate again after Schweitzer and paleontologist Jack Horner of Montana State University's Museum of the Rockies recovered the 80-million-year-old Brachylophosaurus canadensis femur bone in the summer of 2007 and observed that it appeared to be even better preserved than the original T. rex fossil.
Schweitzer's initial laboratory analyses confirmed this observation.
After being subjected to demineralization, the B. canadensis bone fragments showed marked preservation of original tissues and molecules, with microstructures resembling soft, transparent vessels, cells and fibrous matrix - even though the fossil was much older than the T. rex sample.
Chemical extractions of bone and vessel were subsequently sent to the laboratories of BIDMC scientists Lewis Cantley, PhD, and Raghu Kalluri, where immunoblots and immunochemistry analyses were conducted to determine the presence of collagen protein in the samples.
The results confirmed the existence of protein. (ANI)