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Scientists Find Soft Tissue in T-Rex Fossil 978

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the and-it-actually-tasted-like-chicken dept.
douglips writes "Reuters is running a story about a shocking development in paleontology: A T-Rex thigh bone fossil was reluctantly broken to fit in a transport helicopter, and inside soft tissue was found. It appears to include blood vessels and bone cells. Scientists hope to isolate proteins, and perhaps even DNA."
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Scientists Find Soft Tissue in T-Rex Fossil

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  • by mycro (633791) * on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:42PM (#12039067) Homepage Journal
    Let the cloning begin!
  • by kfractal (107548) * <kfractal@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:42PM (#12039072)
    just curious.
  • by Goronmon (652094) * on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:43PM (#12039073)
    Now we know that when the cloned T-Rex escapes, if you stand perfectly still it won't see you!
    • by mrtroy (640746) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:45PM (#12039105)
      Now we know that when the cloned T-Rex escapes, if you stand perfectly still it won't see you!

      Also, do NOT run directly to the shitter.

    • by nizo (81281) * on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:53PM (#12039230) Homepage Journal
      As much as I trust TV and the essentially random guesses made by people about something that has been dead for millions of years, I am not sure I want to stand still while being chased by a really big meat-eating dinosaur unless I am reeeaaally extra sure that it won't see me. On the upside I only have to run past the other people who have seen Jurassic Park and are standing still to test if this theory is true or not. If it runs past them I simply freeze, otherwise I can escape while it chomps on the first few unlucky souls to hold still.
      • by the phantom (107624) * on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:10PM (#12039429) Homepage
        You don't have to be the fastest member of the crowd, just faster than the slowest member.
      • by opec (755488) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:11PM (#12039433) Homepage
        As much as I trust TV and the essentially random guesses made by people about something that has been dead for millions of years,

        The detail about T-Rex's having the inability to see moving objects was thrown in by Michael Crichton to support his belief that scientists' filling in the ancient dinosaur DNA gaps with modern-day amphibian DNA would lead to various "features" being transposed across the species. Some amphibians of today truly cannot see inanimate objects.

        This was a necessary plot point in the story... Jurassic Park was designed to continue only with Human support (no natural breeding), but "nature found a way" when the abilities of some amphibians to spontaneously change sexes was found in the JP dinosaurs.

        To recap, it wasn't a random guess... Just a plot twist by a clever author. There's no evidence to suggest that ancient dinosaurs couldn't see inanimate objects. Predators like T-Rex's probably couldn't survive like that.
        • by Ark42 (522144) <slashdot.morpheussoftware@net> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:16PM (#12039478) Homepage

          Birds too, I believe, cannot see things that do not move, and birds are believed to be whats left of dinosours as they evolved to today.
          I've read that if it were possible for a human to control the natural eye jitteriness and just focus absolutely still, the image you see would fade away to nothing. The eye needs constant movement to be able to keep updating what you are seeing.
          • by daeley (126313) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:31PM (#12039668) Homepage
            birds are believed to be whats left of dinosours as they evolved to today

            It'd be amusing if the T-Rex had the parrot's vocal abilities to mimic human voices.

            Of course, the only words they'd be exposed to and thus be able to mimic would be various versions of "AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!" and "OH DEAR GOD NORRUUUURRRGGGGLLLE!!!!" and that would just scare other people off.

            A sad life, the T-Rex's.

            Sigh.
            • by dtjohnson (102237) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @06:44PM (#12040466)
              A sad life?

              T-Rex survived for millions of years through asteroid impacts, earthquakes, global climate change, flood, drought, disease, and competition for food. By comparison, our H. Sapiens species has been around for only 50,000 years or so and our numbers and technology have expanded during only the last 2,000. Extrapolating our most recent 100 years of history into the future doesn't make our prospects look very good either. Disease, war, and environmental destruction are likely to thin us out quite a bit or even lead to our extinction. At this very moment, millions of scientists and engineers all over the globe are hard at work thinking of new, more effective, ways to kill large numbers of us. Whose life is sadder, T-rex or H-Sapiens?
          • Birds too, I believe, cannot see things that do not move

            False. How else would birds find their water bowl, or their perch? Snakes cannot see things that move, birds obviously can.
            • by mikael (484) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @06:17PM (#12040226)
              Birds too, I believe, cannot see things that do not move

              False. How else would birds find their water bowl, or their perch? Snakes cannot see things that move, birds obviously can.

              At the level of the first layers in the retina, the firing rate of neurons is proportional to the rate of change in either direction, colour, intensity or time.

              As an example, stare at this flag [softwaresolutions4u.net] for 30 seconds or so, then look at a blank area of space. This optical illusion works because the neurons that respond to yellow, green and black become inactive, leaving blue, red and white.

              I am sure birds can see things that do not move, it is only that they do not consider something that moves slowly as "dangerous". It is a great party trick when we were kids to go out in the garden, place some grain in our hands, stand absolutely still and have wild birds eat of our hands. Obviously the birds could see our hands and the grain.

              From some various articles on bird vision, birds may have up to 120,000 cones per square inch of retina (humans only have 10,000), and may have four or more different types of colour-sensitve cones (thereby being able to have a higher colour range than humans).
          • by digidave (259925) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @06:15PM (#12040210)
            I believe you're misunderstanding this aspect of vision. Inanimate objects don't disappear, it's just nearly impossible to notice it. It's like when you see something out of the corner of your eye... you can only identify a moving object if it's at any distance. However, any movement in the corner of your eye will be extremely noticable.

            Take when you're driving, for instance. A car driving at the same speed as you in your blind spot is going to be hard to see when you turn your head before changing lanes. This is especially true of dark grey cars that can look similar to the road. If that car is moving either quicker or slower than you, then you can easily see it.
      • Millions of years, everyone knows the earth is at most 6000 years old. It's in a book somewhere.
  • by CoffeeJedi (90936) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:43PM (#12039074)
    hail our new cloned-DNA T-rex overlor-*CHOMP*

    • by jd (1658)
      You know, that could also be read as you eating the dinosaur. Hmmm. T Rex Burgers! Really DO Taste Like Chicken!
  • News! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by razmaspaz (568034) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:43PM (#12039075)
    Now this is news. I know we are not gonna get any cool theme parks out of this, but this is pretty cool stuff.
  • Lessons (Score:5, Funny)

    by odano (735445) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:43PM (#12039083)
    If I said it once, I've said it a thousand times...

    Modern helicopters are just too small!
  • Precedent (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:43PM (#12039084) Homepage Journal
    This is not the first identification of soft protein laden tissue that has been extracted from dinosaur tissue as Mary Schweitzer at North Carolina State University has extracted these tissues from other tissues [newscientist.com] as well, so there is a precedent.

    Of course getting actual DNA from these tissues will be a long shot due to its fragile nature, but protein sequence may prove very informative in letting us define exactly where genetic lineages have gone over evolution.

    • Re:Precedent (Score:5, Informative)

      by mapmaker (140036) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:59PM (#12039301)
      Mary Schweitzer is the scientist in both of these stories. Seems she's got a knack for finding fossilized soft tissue.

      This T-Rex tissue is apparently a bigger deal than the fossilized egg contents she found previously though. From TFA:

      "Preservation of this extent, where you still have this flexibility and transparency, has never been seen in a dinosaur before." Feathers, hair and fossilized egg contents yes, but not truly soft tissue.

    • by Swamii (594522) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:03PM (#12039355) Homepage
      This is not the first identification of soft protein laden tissue that has been extracted from dinosaur tissue as Mary Schweitzer at North Carolina State University has extracted these tissues from other tissues as well, so there is a precedent.

      Of course getting actual DNA from these tissues will be a long shot due to its fragile nature, but protein sequence may prove very informative in letting us define exactly where genetic lineages have gone over evolution.


      Thanks for spoiling our fun. Can we get back to the Jurassic Park jokes please?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:45PM (#12039099)

    after all, earth is only 6000 years old and was created in 40 days, unless my sources are wrong

  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by ChozCunningham (698051) <slashdot@org.chozcunningham@com> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:46PM (#12039114) Homepage
    We can check for traces of tar, nicotine and other toxins, and scientists will get to end the extinction debate [kidsgrowth.com]. Seriously, might this be the biggest news of the decade? Longer?
  • But how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vivin (671928) <vivin.paliath @ g m a i l .com> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:47PM (#12039135) Homepage Journal
    I'm slightly skeptical. The article talks about soft tissue, but none of the scientists even try to explain how soft tissue could have survived for seventy million years?
    • Re:But how? (Score:3, Funny)

      by ChrisMaple (607946)
      They preserved soft tissues because they had a successful anti-aging skin cream industry.
    • Re:But how? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tricops (635353) <tricops1111.yahoo@com> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:57PM (#12039278)
      Well, you should take everything with a grain of salt of course, but... if you find a bone and it does have soft tissue, then it has soft tissue whether you have an explanation of how it could be possible or not. The explanation comes after further research. Of course, one of the explanations could be it might not be an actual dinosaur bone, but that one can probably be ruled out pretty quickly if the researchers have any idea what they're doing.
    • A theory (Score:5, Interesting)

      by n1ywb (555767) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:04PM (#12039363) Homepage Journal
      Fossilization is the process of minerals replacing proteins. It requires a wet environment, which is why you usually find fossiles in sedementary rocks that used to be a swamp or mud on the bottom of the ocean or something. Soooooo

      1. Dino dies in swamp
      2. Bone begins to fossilize from outside in
      3. Swamp dries out before fossilization is complete
      4. Crunchy on the outside, chewey on the inside
    • Peat Bogs (Score:5, Informative)

      by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:14PM (#12039462) Homepage Journal
      Some of the harshest peat bogs are of comparable age to low-grade coals. The difference is that the organic matter has not decomposed, largely because of the large amounts of acid (no, not that kind) and the lack of oxygen.


      In this case, the acidity is unlikely to be a factor, but the totally anaerobic conditions may be. It is possible that any bacteria in the soft tissue simply didn't have what they needed in order to consume the organic material, and therefore didn't. A slight variant on the situation with peat, but essentially the same idea.


      A second option - less likely, but possible - would be a variant on the way fresh produce is kept fresh today. Modern food isn't always kept with preservatives. Rather, the packaging company uses a medium blast from a radioactive caesium isotope. This kills off all of the bacteria present.


      Radioactive materials certainly occur naturally, and there are indeed cases of naturally-occuring nuclear reactors. It is entirely within the realms of possibility that natural radioactivity kept the inside of the bones sterilized, so that organic decay could not take place.


      The odds of that being the case are slim, but not quite none. However, it raises questions on what may be found in areas where such preservation techniques may actually have occured.

    • Re:But how? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mnmn (145599)
      Its likely the soft tissue of bugs, bacteria and insects, which dined on the soft tissue of other bugs and insects, which dined on the Rex. Unless the bones were sunk in formaldehide of some sort.

      They'll likely clone cockroaches instead.

      I think humans and mammoths will be cloned before any dinos. I'm looking forward to wild mammoths though, Canada has plenty of space for that.
    • by gosand (234100) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @06:08PM (#12040129)
      I'm slightly skeptical. The article talks about soft tissue, but none of the scientists even try to explain how soft tissue could have survived for seventy million years?


      Ahh. This just proves that Evolution is BS, and that the earth is not hundreds of millions of years old. It is just a couple of thousand years old. Soft tissue could have lasted that long. In your FACE scientists. The dinosaurs were obviously killed in the crusades because they were dumb animals that didn't believe in Jesus. Duh.

  • by skwirl42 (262355) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:49PM (#12039152) Homepage
    It'll be interesting to see if we can find hominid remains in similar states of preservation, so we can learn more about the layout of our evolutionary tree. Then again, a T-Rex bone is huge, and that may be the only reason it managed to keep anything preserved.
  • Fuck (Score:5, Funny)

    by erikharrison (633719) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:49PM (#12039162)
    Anybody got a handy chaos theorist? Anybody? Seriously, I need a chaos theorist, oily hair, glasses, fuzzy math skills, preferably debauched.

    Alternatively do any of you know anything about UNIX systems?
  • by kalel666 (587116) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:50PM (#12039168)
    Homer: He may be rich, but money can't buy everything!
    Marge: Like what?
    Homer: . . . A Dinosaur!

    I want to be the first 35 year old kid on my block with a T-Rex. Leash laws be damned!
  • by UncleBiggims (526644) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:51PM (#12039185)
    Why would a T-Rex be using Kleenex?

    Hello?... Is this thing on?
  • Metabolism (Score:4, Interesting)

    by praedictus (61731) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:51PM (#12039197) Journal
    I wonder if this soft tissue will give us some clues about the metabolism of T-Rex, namely will it reveal whether it was warm or cold blooded, or something in between. I must admit this is surprising news.
  • meaty goodness [msn.com]

    in my professional paleontological opinion (not), it needs a nice marinade

    fre up the BBQ, lets see what T Rex tastes like
  • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:52PM (#12039206)
    WHY did it have to be the DNA of a T-Rex? Why couldn't it have been a nice herbivore, like a stegosaurus, or even better, one of those little chicken-sized dinos?

    Now there's going to be running and screaming, and it's all going to be a big huge mess.
  • Possible viruses? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PornMaster (749461) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:53PM (#12039216) Homepage
    I'm a little concerned about the possible viruses which may have been dormantly sitting in this soft tissue all along. Who knows what they might be/do?
    • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:46PM (#12039867) Journal
      We've got a 70 million year evolutionary leg up on the little buggers; I'd be stunned if they could induce a case of the sniffles in a person with AIDS. What'd be more interesting would be if (HUGE IF: I'll take any science by press release with a few pounds of salt. This soft tissue business needs to go through peer review before it's credible to any real extent) any were present we could potentially learn a great deal about viral evolution.
  • nytimes too (Score:4, Informative)

    by jdunlevy (187745) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:53PM (#12039219) Homepage
    article here [nytimes.com]
  • Oh, yeah! (Score:4, Funny)

    by KC7GR (473279) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:55PM (#12039256) Homepage Journal
    Mmmm... It -does- taste like chicken. If you can imagine 10,000 year-old chicken getting better with age.

    Now if I can just find a 10,000 year-old White Zin to go with it...

  • Forced? (Score:5, Funny)

    by sugapablo (600023) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:56PM (#12039261) Homepage
    "Paleontologists forced to break the creature's massive thighbone to get it on a helicopter..."

    Who was heading this team, Homer Simpson?

    I can just see him now:
    Homer: "Grrr..."
    Lisa: "Dad, it's just too big to fit in there."
    Homer: "Nonsense Lisa, daddy will just shove it in....Grrr....here it goes...." *snap* "...DOH!"

  • by Mirk (184717) <{ku.gro.rolyatekim} {ta} {todhsals}> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:02PM (#12039344) Homepage
    There is a rather better write-up of this awesome story on MNSBC, including some rather shocking pictures. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7285683/ [msn.com]
  • by Chairboy (88841) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:03PM (#12039353) Homepage
    First, I think we'll definately see cloned dinosaurs, mammoth, etc within out lives. What I think will surprise people will be the economic pusher for this.

    Sure, researchers will pioneer the basic technology, but the people who do the large scale cloning won't be theme park owners, scientists, or preservationists.

    They'll be food producers.

    We're at the top of the foodchain, and foods like Fugu (deadly blowfish), sushi, and... well, many asian dishes, prove that we're running out of new stuff to eat. There are amazing strides being made by cooks, and there are only so many things people can try before they die of old age, but more and more people are getting adventuresome and want to eat things that nobody else has.

    Enter: The brontoburger.

    Who here hasn't salivated at the thought of carving into a big old dinosaur steak? Who here can forget the longing eyes they cast on Fred Flintstone's car as it tipped over under the weight of the massive dino-ribs he had just ordered?

    Predictions:
    1. Herbivores of various types will be bred in captivity for their meat and leather.
    2. The rich will beat a path to their doorstep for the exclusivity of eating prehistoric food.
    3. In an almost defiant gesture of the universe, the meat will undoubtedly taste like chicken. Dinosaurs are, after all, big ol' birds by most reckoning.

    You may laugh now, but when you're cleaning the last bit of Tony Romas Olde Fashioned Allosaurus (like grandpa used to make 'em) Ribs, remember where you heard it first. Or second, or whenever this message drifted across your desk.
  • by Nevermore-Spoon (610798) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:23PM (#12039551)
    ...the NRA. They have never looked as attractive as they do today...

    The obligitory Matrix Quote
    "We're gonna need Guns...Lots of Guns"
  • by sahonen (680948) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:30PM (#12039651) Homepage Journal
    The scientist in the article wants more scientists to start cracking open their own T-rex bones to see if they have soft tissue inside as well. I'm wondering, isn't there a way to tell what's inside *apart* from cracking open precious bones? Ultrasound, or an MRI, maybe?
  • by Bun (34387) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:43PM (#12039821)
    Perhaps they can use potassium-40 dating, or some other method to directly measure the age of the soft tissue, rather than the traditional method of estimating age by the surrounding rock.
  • Never mind cloning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @05:52PM (#12039959) Homepage
    Everyone keeps hearing "dinosaur dna" and thinking "cloning". That seems like a bit of a long shot. And I think concentrating on this is overlooking the real value here.

    If they find any dinosaur DNA just think of what could be done with that. Mostly what I'm thinking about here is ancestry analysis. Our understanding of the exact way evolutionary processes have behaved contains much that is based on similarity and guesswork. It seems if we could get solid information on what now-living organisms that dinosaurs were related to and to what extent-- or what dinosaurs were related to each other and how, if more soft tissue can be found in other fossils-- it seems this could verify science's understanding of paleobiology (sic?) and the evolutionary tree, or change it, in an unprecedented way. Has anything of this sort-- DNA from living tissue that old-- ever been found before, has there ever been any comparable way we have been able to perform genetic testing on a sample of that age?

    This is even aside from what that DNA and any found proteins can tell us about how dinosaurs looked and behaved...

    This is a really big deal.
  • by Legion303 (97901) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @06:32PM (#12040370) Homepage
    Soft dinosaur tissue would be interesting if that's what it really is, but here's a quote from today's Science journal:

    "Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, cautions
    that looks can deceive: Nucleated protozoan cells have been found in
    225-million-year-old amber, but geochemical tests revealed that the
    nuclei had been replaced with resin compounds. Even the resilience of
    the vessels may be deceptive. Flexible fossils of colonial marine
    organisms called graptolites have been recovered from
    440-million-year-old rocks, but the original material--likely
    collagen--had not survived."
  • One problem, even if it were feasible to clone a T-Rex (which mostly likely it isn't) there is the tiny fact that dinosaurs at the time lived in a higher oxygenated atmosphere. This made it possible for them to grow as large as they did.

    -Steve

All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. -- Dawkins

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