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Jurassic Surprise: Dinosaur Soft Tissue Discovered Inside 195-Million-Year-Old Fossil

Feb 06, 2017 07:31 AM EST

Soft tissues do not usually survive hundreds of millions of years on Earth. That's why the recent discovery of preserved protein being found inside the fossilized rib of a 195-million-year-old Lufengosaurus sauropodomorph dinosaur was such a groundbreaking event.

According to a report from the University of Toronto Mississauga, a group from the university teamed up with fellow scientists from China and Taiwan to analyze the fossil samples. Their findings were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

The team was able to identify what's known as collagen type I in the vascular canals of the rib. It was found along with hematite particles, which are minerals created from the iron in the oxygen-transport protein (hemoglobin) in the blood. The recent study suggested that the newly discovered particles helped preserve the collagen, which are likely what's left of the blood vessels of the long-dead dinosaur.

"Interestingly, there was no evidence of preservation of organic remains in the main mass of the bone, only in the small vascular canals that ran along the length of the rib, where hematite was also present," Professor Robert Reisz, lead of the study who specializes in vertebrate paleontology in the Department of Biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, explained.

He added, "Our localized search, in areas of the bone that are likely to preserve remnants of the original soft tissues, is more likely to succeed than previously used methods. This approach has great future potential, because localized searches will yield important results even when the amount of organic remains is miniscule."

This isn't the first time preserved collagen has been unearthed from millions of years ago, but previous ones were significantly younger. Furthermore, the new approach of avoiding getting the rest of the fossil dissolved will likely open the door to discovering even older preserved proteins in the future.

"These dinosaur proteins are more than 100 million years older than anything previously discovered," Reisz said. "These proteins are the building blocks of animal soft tissues, and it's exciting to understand how they have been preserved."

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