Fossils can come in different sizes, shapes, forms and types. Different remains of creatures which lived before humans have been found preserved in various ways. However, the discovery of any soft tissue has eluded scientists, until now. Scientists have discovered collagen protein in the rib bone of a 195-million years old dinosaur.
An international team of researchers from Canada, China, and Taiwan was able to perform extensive tests on the fossil with the soft tissue using a synchrotron, a type of particle accelerator. The rib bone has found in China and belonged to the dinosaur resembling a brontosaurus but smaller, measuring around 6 meters in length.
Their researchers led to the discovery of both collagen proteins inside the rib as well as hematite, which is a mineral containing iron which formed from the dinosaur’s blood. The discovery of the soft tissue with intact proteins can be revolutionary for paleontologists as they can obtain a better understanding of the biology of dinosaurs and their evolution.
Other previous research has led to the discovery of soft tissue in fossils but only from around 70 million years ago, when the age of dinosaurs was ending. However, the new rib bone fossil is by far the oldest ever discovered evidence of soft tissue with collagen within.
In order to study the fossil and the collagen inside it, the scientists decided to bring it to the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center in Taiwan. It uses photons to strike the rib bone section which allows scientists to determine what type of particles are inside it depending on how the bones absorb the light photons.
This type of analysis allowed the researchers to study the bone without destroying it. However, they still needed to make a small cut in order to expose the vascular canals inside the bone, which normally carried blood vessels and the blood within them.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications. It reveals that the rib bone contains degraded collagen fragments which formed the walls of blood vessels. The scientists made sure to prevent any form of contamination by using an extremely strict protocol in their research.
What do you think about the discovery of soft tissue in dinosaurs bones?
Image credit: Robert Reisz