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Biotech

T. Rex Protein Analysis Supports Dinosaur-Bird Link 242

Posted by Zonk
from the i'll-take-a-bucket-of-rinchenia-legs-with-potato-wedges dept.
LanMan04 writes "For the first time, researchers have read the biological signature of a Tyrannosaur — a signature that confirms the increasingly accepted view that modern birds are the descendants of dinosaurs. Analyzing the organic material (collagen protein) found inside the unique fossil linked the collagen to several extant species. The bottom line is that the T. rex's biological signature was most like a bird's, at least based on the first fragmentary data. "It looks like chicken may be the closest among all species that are present in today's databases for proteins and genomes," one of the scientists interviewed said."
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T. Rex Protein Analysis Supports Dinosaur-Bird Link

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  • by bonefry (979930) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:15PM (#18708957)
    Now I know why ... everything tastes like chicken
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      dammit, I submitted this story too late :-)

      It's kind of inspiring though, to look up and see birds and know that they are the dinosaurs. It's reassuring in a way to know that Life on earth is so resistant to extinction events.

      It makes me wonder how similar their behaviour patterns are to those of the ground based dinosaurs. Once a year we have huge flocks gathering over my town before they migrate, and I spend hours watching them soaring around in ever growing numbers (some years under a bird poo resistant
      • by walnutmon (988223)
        Not sure if I would jump to the same conclusion....

        Does it really make sense that Dinosaurs became birds, or that birds became dinosaurs and survived the mass extinction. I have a difficult time believing that T-Rex's went on to evolve into birds, it seems much more likely that the T-Rex and other large dinosaurs were flukes and went extinct where the smaller ones with wings lived on.

        But I am no evolutionary scientist either.
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          The T-rex didn't evolve into birds, no-one said that.

          they are distantly related because they likely share a common ancestor is all.
    • I guess the song was half right: dinosaurs aren't reptiles, but still probably delicious.

      It's a long line leading to Man
      Where are they now?
      It's a long line leading to Man
      How you do you think it feels to be extinct?

      LP info [calarts.edu], CD info [calarts.edu].

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I think the appropriate phrase should be "Tests like chicken."
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by furry_wookie (8361)


      Scientists have LONG SUSPECTED that Birds and Dinosaurs were the closest relatives....if you just look at the skeletal structures modern birds are the closest living thing to the fossil records we have and birds are the only place that scientists find several unique characteristics of the dinosaur bone structures.

      This just provides a little DNA evidence to back up the fairly obvious visual/structural similarities between birds and dinos.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by richlv (778496)
      and i have another chance to note that "vista" in latvian means chicken/hen.
      you are free to draw your own conclusions regarding succession of t-rex and some companies ;)
  • (Yes, it's mentioned in the article.)

    I rewatched it a few months ago, and found it interesting that some of the concepts about dinosaurs that characters in the film considered "out there" -- namely, that dinosaurs evolved into birds, and that they were probably warm-blooded -- are pretty much the mainstream view today.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by L. VeGas (580015)
      Hmm.. I might be misremembrin', but I'm pretty sure that the idea of birds evolving from dinosaurs was commonly accepted much earlier than when Jurassic Park came out.
      • It was a good idea then, but the evidence was slim and there was a lot more speculation. I really don't remember the specifics, but since then, there were more pieces of evidence that validated the idea.
      • by Kelson (129150) *
        Perhaps, but they make a big point early in the movie to explain it to some people who aren't entirely convinced.

        There's a group of spectators at the dig site, Dr. Grant makes some remark about birds being related to the velociraptor skeleton they're looking at, and the spectators laugh. He then proceeds to point out all the similarities. It's right before the part where he scared the kid with his story about velociraptor hunting practices.
      • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:33PM (#18709293) Journal
        I remember sneering when it was brought up with tones of awe and wonder; I think it was accepted pretty commonly earlier than the movie suggested at the very least.

        This sort of stuff always makes me laugh...The idea that bigass dino's like the T-Rex were slow and ungainly hunters...When does nature ever produce slow ungainly hunters? The selection is always for high speed or decent speed and endurance.

        Saw a special about the first filming of the giant squid a few months ago (though it was an old documentary), and they were talking about how the theory had been that the giant squid was a lazy predator that just hung out with it's arms dangling, snagging things that drifted through them, and that what the film suggested was that it was a fast, energetic predator...They're saying this with awe, like it had never occurred to them that this could be the case, while showing film of smaller squids doing their lightning fast attacks.

        In retrospect it seems silly to have ever believed that dinosaurs could have been anything like as slow as was commonly thought, but it's a mistake that is not uncommon.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Tofystedeth (1076755)
          The latest I heard on the T. Rex (granted this was a few years ago) was that it was not a slow,ungainly hunter, but a slow, ungainly scavenger. Something about scarring on the bones or somesuch indicating that T Rexs may have taken quite a bit of abuse. Wait Wait Don't Tell Me's leadin into that was if Jurassic Park were recast today, the T. Rex would be a Woody Allen type character. Don't know if this has been proven or debunked yet, but it was interesting.
        • by LurkerXXX (667952)
          Many predators, like crocodiles, aren't really what I'd call 'high speed' or big on endurance. They are sneaky, only able to make a quick lunge about the length of their body. If T-Rex was a predator (as opposed to a scavenger), it might not have been (or needed to be) 'fast'.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jbengt (874751)
          Large dinosaurs may have been fast (certainly they took big strides, which would tend to make them faster than me) but there's good reasons to think that they weren't that quick and agile.

          The compression/tension/shear forces on the leg are roughly proportional to the weight (i.e. proportional to L^3) of the animal, and the strength of the leg against those stresses is only proportional to the cross sectional area (L^2). Legs can only get so thick, proportionately, and at some point they will break too easi
      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        Hmm.. I might be misremembrin', but I'm pretty sure that the idea of birds evolving from dinosaurs was commonly accepted much earlier than when Jurassic Park came out.
        IIRC, I had a book when I was pretty young, at least ten years before Jurassic Park came out (i.e. early 1980s) that described birds as the descendants of dinosaurs.
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      I was into dinosaurs as a child and a teenager. IIRC, this was a theory with some scientific evidence as early as the 80s.

      In fact, Ornithiscia [wikipedia.org] one of the latin names to describe a certain dinosaur lineage translates as "bird hips" -- but in fact birds descended from the , or Saurischia [wikipedia.org], or "lizard hip" dinosaurs. Weird. I couldn't figure out from my cursory look into wikipedia when the theory first arose.
      • by radtea (464814) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:54PM (#18709631)
        In fact, Ornithiscia one of the latin names to describe a certain dinosaur lineage translates as "bird hips" -- but in fact birds descended from the , or Saurischia, or "lizard hip" dinosaurs.

        The curious thing that birds, dinosaurs and mammals all have in common is the placement of the legs underneath the body. This is what made it possible for dinosaurs and mammals to get so big. Other lizards are stuck with their legs sticking out to the sides, which limits weight-bearing capacity and means the really big ones are primarily aquatic.

        What makes this curious is that this particular innovation appears to have only evolved once in some common ancestor of mammals and dinosaurs. This suggests it must be very unlikely to evolve--much less likely than other things like wings and eyes, which have evolved independently many times. Maybe the early fossil record will eventually show that it in fact arose more than once, but it's such a huge advantage that if it were possible to get it easily one would think that it would be done more often, and it is odd that no other reptile has ever pulled it off.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by deboli (199358)
          "...The curious thing that birds, dinosaurs and mammals all have in common is the placement of the legs underneath the body..."

          There were animals with legs on the back of their bodies but they found themselves extinct shortly after
    • Well, given that chickens are identified as the closest living relatives, it appears that the Flintstones eating barbecued dinos weren't all that far "out there" either.
      • "It looks like chicken may be the closest among all species"

        Ummmm, I'm having fried TRex for dinner tonight!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)
      Why would we assume *all* dinosours evolved from birds?

      Its entirely feasible for a large proportion to go that way, but a brontosaurus or triceratops are closer to being a whale than a pre-prehistoric A380.
      • by daddymac (244954)

        Why would we assume *all* dinosours evolved from birds


        I don't think anyone has ever in their entire life assumed that, since dinosaurs were here a long time before birds.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by LiquidCoooled (634315)
          No, what I mean is, just because we now have a genetic line between t-rex and birds in general, that does not mean that every dinosaur is linked to birds.
          That is like taking a single generic sampling nowadays and taking that as representative of every living creature.
    • by saforrest (184929)
      I rewatched it a few months ago, and found it interesting that some of the concepts about dinosaurs that characters in the film considered "out there" -- namely, that dinosaurs evolved into birds, and that they were probably warm-blooded -- are pretty much the mainstream view today.


      They were mainstream in 1994 too. Even when I was a kid in the early eighties I remember seeing mainstream science programs constrasting the nimble warm-blooded dinosaurs with the old-school nineteenth century characterization a
    • I rewatched it a few months ago, and found it interesting that some of the concepts about dinosaurs that characters in the film considered "out there" -- namely, that dinosaurs evolved into birds, and that they were probably warm-blooded -- are pretty much the mainstream view today.

      Shouldn't come as much of a surprise though. The film is fourteen years old, and the book older yet. At that time those concepts were "out there" - there was a lot of suspicion that they might be true, but precious little evid

    • by rucs_hack (784150) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:54PM (#18709635)
      what I especially like about Jurassic park is that Speilberg decided they had to have six foot tall Velociraptors for the film, which was considered absurd, then within months six foot tall Velociraptor fossils were discovered.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        A few references for anyone interested...

        John Ostrom of Yale University definitely supported the theory that birds might have evolved from a theropod dinosaur branch back in the early 1980's, I believe. Dr. Ostrom's ideas were then popularized by the publication of Dr. Robert Bakker's book "The Dinosaur Heresies", which is an interesting, colorful read, although admittedly Bakker doesn't always stick strictly to the science and he seems to rely too heavily on cladistic studies which don't take chronologies
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          Nice follow up information. I would have looked for some references, but half a bottle of white rum said otherwise...
      • by linguizic (806996)
        Hmmm... ...that sounds just a little too convenient.
      • That's not really true. Velociraptors were turkey-sized and lived in Asia. The dino you're referring to is, I assume, the Utahraptor, which is a different species discovered in a completely different part of the world. JP's 'Velociraptor' was modeled off the Deinonychus. The reason for that being that Crichton had read a book that decided that Deinonychus was a subspecies of Velociraptor, a theory which has been pretty much universally rejected for years. Not to mention that we know now that the Deinonychus
    • by timeOday (582209)

      namely, that dinosaurs evolved into birds
      Are the dinosaurs we're talking about the big, familiar ones like T Rex and Triceratops? Or do birds and those big land dinosaurs share a common ancestor, technically also a dinosaur, that was smaller?
      • "Or do birds and those big land dinosaurs share a common ancestor, technically also a dinosaur, that was smaller?"

        Yes. T. rex and Triceratops didn't evolve into birds (which is something stories like these make people think, unfortunately). Instead they share a common ancestor that was also a dinosaur, probably something closely related to dromaeosaurid dinosaurs (aka 'raptors'). However, T. rex and its ilk are more closely related to birds and share a common ancestor within a shorter timespan than Trice
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tatarize (682683)
      Heh. They were there and pretty well accepted at the time. However, JP actually seems way off in a number of regards even back then. For example, Velociraptor are turkey sized, covered with feathers, and wings and could easily have been capable of flight. Rather than a fierce predator T. Rex was most likely a lumbering scavenger, with an opportunistic attack here and there; easily they could have been covered with down and been quite ugly.

      We would have a more accurate opinion of dinosaurs if we managed to c
      • by TempeTerra (83076)

        How we still classify birds as non-dinosaurs escapes me (though I also think it's pathetic that Humans aren't classified as apes). It seems that you have a pretty clear line. Fish -> Amphibian -> Reptile -> -> Dinosaur -> Bird. Just as we are Fish -> Amphibian -> Reptile -> Mammal-like-reptile -> Mammal. I guess it's all a sort of trouble with the taxon system. We tend to view certain animals as a species rather than the continuation of a gene pool that may or may not have branche

  • by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:16PM (#18708985)
    Does it taste like chicken? MMMmmmm T-Rex Wings.
  • by Garridan (597129) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:17PM (#18709003)
    Interesting resolution to an old debate:

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg? T-Rex!
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:23PM (#18709103) Homepage
    I've always thought roosters had that look in their eye.. you know.... like they'd eat you in a second, if they could.
  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:25PM (#18709135) Journal
    I'd just like to say "How the mighty have fallen".
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:37PM (#18709359)
      > I'd just like to say "How the mighty have fallen".

      I'll give it a try.

      I met a traveller from an antique land
      Who said: Two former drumsticks, turn'd to stone,
      Stand in Wyoming. Near them on the sand,
      Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
      And razor teeth and sneer of cold command
      Tell that its sculptor well those proteins read
      Which yet survive, stamp'd in this lifeless thing,
      The hand that mock'd them and the mouth that fed.
      And in the fossil rock these words appear:
      "My name is Tyrannosaur, Chicken King"
      Look on my works, ye primates, and cluck!"
      Nothing beside remains: round the decay
      Of that colossal Rex, asteroid-fuck'd,
      The lone and level sands stretch far away.

      - With apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley. I think it's still a sonnet.

      • by radtea (464814)
        Look on my works, ye primates, and cluck!"

        Should probably be "go cluck" to get the metre correct.

        Extremely funny, either way.
  • by TomSawyer (100674) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:26PM (#18709173) Homepage
    How would the machines know what a T-Rex's DNA was like.
  • Darwinian Payback (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:31PM (#18709251)
    So, the former "top of the food chain" eventually becomes the staple to the successors of mere vermin in his time.

    In a few tens of millions of years, tiny little human decedents will be eaten by large intelligent mice.
    • Down the Interstate goes the 18-Wheeler, with it's load of live chickens going to market. To be made into "chicken", and wind up on one of Martha Stewart's TV shows, as the feature dish. Martha will have an expert chef as a guest that day, to help her fix the chicken dish, to the oohs and aahs of the audience.
      Then, without warning, the 18-Wheeler tips over, while trying to go around on a clover-leaf, taking the turn too fast. The trailer flips over on it's side, and most, if not all, of the cages scatter on
  • by truckaxle (883149) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:35PM (#18709331) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our new edible and delicious overloads (hmmm extra crispy or original recipe ....)
  • Source of protein (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jshriverWVU (810740) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:37PM (#18709353)
    I'm more curious about what methods they used to "isolate the collagen proteins". From my understanding ALL fossils are not the real bone or organic matter that the animal once was, but a mineral deposit in the shape of the once present organic material. So how did you get T.Rex dna out of a non-organic rock formed like a bone?
    • Re:Source of protein (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei (128717) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:56PM (#18709677) Homepage
      For the most part, it has long been assumed that all dinosaur fossils had little to no organic material inside them. However, there was an incident, something like a year ago, when they couldn't fit a particularly large T-rex bone inside a helicopter, and cut it instead. They noticed that the fossil still had a bit of give on the inside and it looked like fresh tissue. A new study was initiated, and they dissolved the mineralized portion of the bone (and of others). What was left was the springy organic material -- even blood vessels were intact. They were not only able to study the proteins, but they were even able to tell that one of the dinosaurs studied was a brooding female [physorg.com].

      Organic preservation like this is still believed to be a rare phenominon, but I'd expect many more ancient fossils to be inspected for organic remains from now on. Too bad DNA is as unstable in the long term as it is, though.
      • by lawpoop (604919)
        "... They were even able to tell that one of the dinosaurs studied was a brooding female. "

        Heh. Too bad they didn't have prozac back then ;)
      • by ookabooka (731013)
        Too bad DNA is as unstable in the long term as it is, though.

        Why not just fill in the gaps with something similar. . .like frog DNA? Perhaps utilizing modern computers and 3d-modeling. Just be careful what kind of frog you use...
    • Basically, researchers discovered this quite by accident. A fossil T-Rex bone was too large to be airlifted out of a site it had been found on, so they cut it in half. Imagine their surprise when they found it was NOT rock all the way through, but hollow. Inside, they found reddish spongy organic material. Not fossil, organic.

      I feel certain it took a great many scientists a long time (and probably some illegal substances) to recover from the shock. This was most definitely not what they had expected. They

  • by Miraba (846588) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:41PM (#18709441) Journal

    The bottom line was that the T. rex's biological signature was most like a bird's, at least based on the first fragmentary data. "It looks like chicken may be the closest among all species that are present in today's databases for proteins and genomes," Asara said.
    Today's databases being the key words. Our current database of fully sequenced genomes is pathetically small, but most news outlets are reporting "T. rex was giant chicken!" When another dinosaur bone with protein fragments is found, then we'll have a better idea. Seven sequences does not a genome make.
  • ...it tastes like chicken. /obligatory
  • by swschrad (312009) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:46PM (#18709511) Homepage Journal
    as giant 40-foot toothed chickens chase them across the countryside. protests in England have already begun to protect the foxes.

    breeding farmer Clancy Hogtrough said, "Hail, all I wanted to do was slow down those three-legged chickens of mine. Never found out if they were tasty, cause we could never catch 'em."

    we hope to re-establish our satellite link shortly for our live report from Cuddles Fernbreath....
  • by guidarr (1087699) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:04PM (#18709801)
    I would love to know just how similar the proteins were. Here is interesting research showing how the human and chicken genomes are also very similar. http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/chicken_gen ome_041208.html [livescience.com] Not sure what the T-Rex data proves, other than lots of creatures have a similar genetic composition to a chicken. Guess this means that I'm "related" to a T-rex too, since I apparently came from a chicken...could explain my short arms and overbite. I'm more interested in the fact that T-Rex soft tissue can survive for, supposedly, 65M years...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dimensio (311070)
      The tissue wasn't actually "soft" when found (that's a common creationist misrepresentation). It only became soft after being subjected to a rehydration process. Also, there was not a great deal of such tissue; images shown of the sample found are heavily magnified.
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      I'm more interested in the fact that T-Rex soft tissue can survive for, supposedly, 65M years...

      I believe you mean 6 thousand years. God created dinosaurs, then he killed them all a few years later because they kept eating all the people, and as we all know, nothing makes God angrier than eating His image.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by khallow (566160)

      You can always read articles to see what they say before you ask questions and make clueless conclusions. If you had read the original article you would see that they extract seven protein sequences from fossilized T. Rex tissue, then compared it to a number of modern and ancient organisms.

      "Out of seven total sequences, we had three that matched chicken uniquely," Asara told reporters. "We had another that matched frog uniquely, one that matched newt uniquely, and a couple that matched multiple sequences.

  • I always thought Marc Bolan was simply an awesome musician. Now I found out that he's also performing protein analysis from beyond the grave. T. Rex... still the best.
  • "From "Tyro Rex Supersaur"

    VOICE OF GORGOS
    Every time we excavate it bothers your friends
    That you'd let the mammals be the cause of your end
    Was it something special that we can't comprehend?
    Why could you not stick around until the Age of Men?
    If you came today you could have eaten whole nations
    The Mesozoic era had no overpopulation
    Don't you get me wrong - I only want to know.

    CHOIR
    Tyro Rex, Tyro Rex
    Are you the best that Nature selects?
    Tyro Rex, Supersaur
    Why is it that you exist no more?

    VOICE OF

  • "It looks like chicken may be the closest among all species that are present in today's databases for proteins and genomes," one of the scientists interviewed said."

    And right before the tyranasaur swallowed monkey, monkey chanted a curse, a curse that one day the tyranasaurs would become slaves to the monkey.
  • Original article (Score:3, Informative)

    by mavi_yelken (801565) on Friday April 13, 2007 @06:13AM (#18716251)
    Is it so hard to include a link to the original paper?
    Here is it:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/316/582 2/280 [sciencemag.org]
    Protein Sequences from Mastodon and Tyrannosaurus Rex Revealed by Mass Spectrometry

    Here is a choice quote:

    A BLAST alignment and similarity search (23) of the five T. rex peptides from collagen {alpha}1t1 as a group against the all-taxa protein database showed 58% sequence identity to chicken, followed by frog (51% identity) and newt (51% identity). The small group of peptide sequence data reported here support phylogenetic hypotheses suggesting that T. rex is most closely related to birds among living organisms whose collagen sequence is present in protein databases (24-26).
    This article documents previous research:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/316 /5822/277 [sciencemag.org]
    Analyses of Soft Tissue from Tyrannosaurus rex Suggest the Presence of Protein

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