North Carolina State University-Led Study Collects 80-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Protein


Mary Schweitzer, a paleontologist from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, led a study which claimed that she and her colleagues were able to recover an 80-million-year-old dinosaur protein. This provided evidence to the possibility of isolating protein fragments from dinosaurs even for millions of years.

According to Science Magazine, there were two studies that suggested the possibility of isolating dinosaur protein. First was the study led by Schweitzer while in the other study by ancient protein expert Enrico Cap­pellini and Matthew Col­lins, a paleoproteomics expert at the Uni­versity of York, they were able to identify protein fragments from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich egg shells.

In 2007 and 2009, Schweitzer and her colleagues reported that they were able to isolate intact protein fragments from 65-million- and 80-million-year-old dinosaur fossils. However, their study was met with skepticism by other biochemists and paleontologists who did not believe that these organic molecules could last that long.

Last year, though, Cappellini and Collins were able to identify protein fragments from ostrich egg shells. This was found convincing by most of their colleagues.

BBC reported that the scientists examined the fossils of a Lufengosaurus dinosaur. They used infrared spectroscopy with a synchrotron, which was done in Taiwan.

Collagen and iron-rich proteins were discovered within the walls of blood vessels found running through rib bones. It is believed that the remains of dinosaur blood could be the reason that the collagen was preserved for nearly 200 million years.

The discovery has big implications for the scientific community. First, it shows that there are still a lot of things to learn about fossil formation and preservation. Second, this would validate previous studies on similar proteins found in other dinosaurs.

The Washington Post noted that the researchers were also able to find crystals of hematite, which is the mineral form of iron oxide. This is believed to be from the iron-rich blood cells of the dinosaur since rocks around the fossil do not have much iron.

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