Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Soft tissue found in T-Rex bones

According to a recent article on Slashdot, a newly-broken thigh bone from a Tyrannosaurus Rex was found to contain stretchy, soft tissue inside. The bone marrow was not fossilized, as one might expect.

Last year, paleontologists excavating a T-Rex fossil skeleton in Montana successfully extracted the femur (thigh bone) of a T-Rex from the earth. Unfortunately, the only transport from the site was via helecopter, and the helecopter was too small the carry the whole femur. So the femur was deliberately broken so it would fit on the helecopter. When this was done, soft, stretchy tissue was found in the center of the bone, possibly even containing blood cells.

The California Academy of Sciences web site contains this photo of the reddish, meaty tissue which (according to archaeological dating) has persisted unfossilized after 70 million years.

As the Slashdot readers pointed out, the implications for this find are enormous. Either the standard methods of dating dinosaur bones are wrong (which is what the creationists are saying), or else fossilization doesn't work the way people have traditionally thought.

And since that tissue contains DNA, is it possible that a Jurassic Park scenario of cloning a Tyrannosaurus Rex might be closer than we imagine?