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News Release 05-048

T. rex Fossil Yields Soft Tissue

Material may contain preserved biomolecules

T. rex soft tissue.

After 70 million years, this T. rex soft tissue is still flexible and resilient.


March 25, 2005

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

In a discovery that invokes comparisons to Jurassic Park, North Carolina State University paleontologist Mary Schweitzer and her colleagues have extracted soft tissue from the fossilized leg bone of a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex specimen. The soft tissue includes intact, still-flexible blood vessels and fibrous material consistent with collagen. Also, electron microscopy reveals round-to-oval bodies virtually identical to the cell nuclei found in the corresponding tissues of ostriches, which, along wtih other birds, are believed to be modern-day descendants of dinosaurs.

Whether the tissue will yield DNA or any other biomolecules remains to be answered.

Schweitzer and her team published the finding in the March 25 issue of the journal Science.

The presence of this novel tissue is not the only surprise from this discovery, says Enriqueta Barrera, a program director in the National Science Foundation's earth sciences division, which partly funded the study. The tissue was once elastic and stretchy, and had the capacity to be dehydrated and rehydrated many times without losing this characteristic. “Although the preservation of soft tissue such as this is not unique in the geologic record, this occurrence goes well beyond what has been observed in the past for dinosaurs, and reinforces the evolutionary link of dinosaurs to birds,” said Barrera.

For more information, see the NC State news release.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Cheryl L. Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email: cdybas@nsf.gov
Tracey Peake, NC State, (919) 515-3470, email: tracey_peake@ncsu.edu

Program Contacts
Enriqueta Barrera, NSF, (703) 292-8551, email: ebarrera@nsf.gov

Principal Investigators
Mary H. Schweitzer, NC State, (919) 515-3711, email: schweitzer@ncsu.edu

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