Monday, April 16, 2007

Against All Odds, Scientists Isolate Protein

Summary from the Chronicle of Higher Education [access by subscribers only after April 17]


"Using sophisticated medical equipment designed for studying human diseases, a team of scientists has isolated fragments of proteins inside the bones of a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex, a find that shatters expectations about how quickly biological materials decay in fossils.

"The discovery also points to a new method for unraveling the evolution of extinct animals, and it could potentially settle major debates, such as whether birds evolved from dinosaurs or a different group of reptiles.

"If the work can be verified by other laboratories, it suggests fossilized bone might harbor far more information than scientists have ever suspected." The research was reported in Science April 13, in articles on pp. 277-280 and 280-285, by a team that included Mary Higby Schweitzer, an assistant professor of paleontology at North Carolina State University, as well as members from Harvard and Montana State Universities and the University of Chicago. [access to Science articles for subscribers only].

Image from "Sue at the Field Museum" The Field Museum, Chicago.