‘Blood vessels’ retrieved from 80mn-yo dinosaur fossil – study

Blood vessels from the demineralized Brachylophosaurus canadensis bone. © M. Schweitzer/ North Carolina State University
American scientists have found blood vessel-like structures in a mid-sized duck-billed dinosaur that walked the earth 80 million years ago. The discovery offers further evidence that some soft tissue structures can survive millions of years.

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The research was led by Dr Tim Cleland of the University of Texas at Austin. His team “demineralized a piece of leg bone from a Brachylophosaurus canadensis, a 30-foot-long hadrosaur,” which was found in Montana, US.

The group found proteins from the cellular components of the blood vessels. One of the proteins was identified as myosin, which is found within the walls of blood vessels.

The results were then double-checked against the bones from chickens and ostriches – living relatives of the dinosaurs.

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In both tests peptide sequences matched those found in blood vessels. “Peptide sequencing of Brachylophosaurus canadensis blood vessel extracts is consistent with peptides comprising extant archosaurian blood vessels and is not consistent with a bacterial, cellular slime mold, or fungal origin,” said a paper published in the Journal of Proteome Research.

The study provides further evidence that molecular characterization of extinct species can be carried out.

“When all data are taken into consideration, the most parsimonious explanation is that these vessels, derived from demineralized dinosaur bone, are endogenous,” they said. “These data open the door for molecular characterization of biological components of other long-extinct organisms.”

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Cleland said that this is the first research of its kind that analyzes blood vessels from an extinct organism.

“It provides us with an opportunity to understand what kinds of proteins and tissues can persist and how they change during fossilization,” he said.