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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 Kelson (129150) * on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:16PM (#18708977) Homepage Journal
    (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.

  • Darwinian Payback (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:31PM (#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.
  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:33PM (#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.
  • Source of protein (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jshriverWVU (810740) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:37PM (#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?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:39PM (#18709399)
    The more likely senario is parallel development. Birds split off well before T-Rexs evolved. The real debate is how far back the split occured. It was at least mid Jurassic and possibly as far back as preTriassic. There are early reptiles that have feathers and winglike structures. No one is debating dinosaurs and birds are closely related but it's a myth T-Rexs evolved into birds. Birds were around long before the first T-Rex. T-Rexs are considered the most birdlike but it's from parallel development not direct evolutionary ties.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:45PM (#18709499) Homepage Journal
    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 rucs_hack (784150) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:54PM (#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.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:57PM (#18709691) Homepage Journal
    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 guidarr (1087699) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @06:04PM (#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...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @07:01PM (#18710593)
    for starters...

    http://research.unc.edu/endeavors/spr97/bird.html [unc.edu]

    secondly, i'm not sold here. it may well do what they claim - or it might not.

    what i want them to do is to take KNOWN species and run the same test to see if any known, distinct species *appear* to be descended from one another using their methodology.

    seems easy enough to do, so why not do it? wouldn't it tell us how accurate the analysis is?

    one needs to look at this data in context in order to properly value what it is telling us.

    that context is absent from the article and, perhaps, from the study.

    "Once more of them get sampled, then we can start being able to compare the extinct with the extinct," he said. "Then they could really support, or overturn, previous hypotheses. The results of this paper aren't so much that they have made an important contribution to our understanding of T. rex or mastodons, but rather that they are opening a window into an entirely new approach to these fossils."


    why limit it to fossils? again, why not test the veracity of this analysis against a number of knowns to see if the results reflect what we'd expect?

    Horner told journalists that the findings already have strengthened the dinosaur-bird connection: "It's the first way we can test the hypothesis of relationships. ... This is a test, and we have failed to falsify that dinosaurs and birds are related. It changes our hypothesis to a theory now."


    funny, everyone i heard trumpeting dinosaurs as obvious transitional entities to birds didn't use to say their belief was a mere hypothesis.

    also, what were the differences found? did any of the results match anything else? what came in second and how close in second was it? did it have any similarities to fish?

    i'm afraid that scientists have lost the valuable trait of skepticism when it comes to this kind of thing. a little data comes in and it is trumpeted without much effort to question it or provide context.

    if you didn't click the first time i posted it, click this time:

    http://research.unc.edu/endeavors/spr97/bird.html [unc.edu]

    no, it isn't a right wing religious diatribe. it is a skeptical scientist that believes in macro-evolution who has the integrity to question what everyone so dearly wants to be true.
  • by Tatarize (682683) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @07:29PM (#18710965) Homepage
    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 completely dispel the lizard myth. They are no more lizards than mammals are lizards.

    After we do that, we also need to redefine genus Avis. 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 branched off to other gene pools.
  • by jbengt (874751) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:00PM (#18712323)
    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 easily. Bending moments are a little more complicated, but stresses still increase faster than strength as size increases.

    The smaller dinos were undoubtedly quick and agile, though.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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