Science Magazine reports that scientists at the Museum of Natural History in London have been able to find the first potentially viable samples of dinosaur blood and protein from the museum’s collection by using new techniques to peer deep inside existing fossil samples.
Before you roll your eyes, no, this is not a viral marketing grab for the release of this weekend’s Jurassic World, and no, this doesn’t mean that you’ll soon be able to make out with your girlfriend on the triceratops ride at a real-life theme park where dinosaurs roam freely. Let Matthew Collins, the University of York Professor quoted in the Science article explain:
“It’s encouraging,” especially because the proteins were found in what appear to be the most unremarkable, ordinary bones, says Matthew Collins, an archaeologist and biochemist at the University of York in the United Kingdom. But he and others caution that the team hasn’t proven beyond doubt that the structures do contain ancient proteins.
As early as the 1970s, researchers captured images of what looked like cellular structures inside dinosaur fossils. But did the structures contain actual tissue? Proteins commonly decay hundreds to thousands of years after an organism dies, but in rare cases they have been known to survive up to 3 million years.
As is often the case with scientist findings, many other scientists are either unsure of the first scientist’s findings or are extremely jealous. Many others have tried to successfully study potential samples of what could be dinosaur proteins in the past, to less than stellar results.
In a series of studies beginning a decade ago, a team led by North Carolina State University paleontologist Mary Schweitzer reported that it had extracted what appeared to be collagen, the most abundant protein in bone, from a 68-million-year-old T. rex fossil. The team sequenced fragments of the protein and concluded that it closely matched that of birds, dinosaurs’ living descendants. But other teams haven’t been able to replicate the work, and others suggested that the collagen could be contamination.
That said, early tests show great promise in this new study, and Dr. Collins and his team hope that this will finally be the kind of scientific breakthrough that allows them to sell their dino-cloning secrets to a corporation looking to open a theme park in the- I mean, that allows them to further study how these ancient creatures lived on an ancient Earth.