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Preservation of Biomolecules in Cancellous Bone of Tyrannosaurus rex

Mary Higby Schweitzer, Craig Johnson, Thomas G. Zocco, John R. Horner and Jean R. Starkey
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
Vol. 17, No. 2 (Jun. 19, 1997), pp. 349-359
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4523811
Page Count: 11
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Preservation of Biomolecules in Cancellous Bone of Tyrannosaurus rex
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Abstract

An exceptionally well preserved specimen of the tyrannosaurid dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex Osborn shows little evidence of permineralization or other diagenetic effects. It appears that the cancellous bone tissues of the specimen may have been protected from water infiltration or mineral deposition by the very dense cortical bone which surrounds them. The cancellous tissues provided an opportunity to test the hypothesis that indigenous biomolecules might be preserved over the course of millions of years under the appropriate conditions. HPLC analysis of extracts from the bone tissues revealed the presence of molecules with light absorbance maxima consistent with nucleic acids and peptides/proteins. Analyses of bone extracts for amino acid content yielded ratios similar to those found for modern ostrich and horse bone. A high molar glycine ratio and the presence of hydroxylysine peaks in bony tissue samples from the T. rex suggests the presence of collagen type I remnants. Results indicate that the analyzed tissue contains numerous biomolecules. While some of the biomolecules are most likely contaminants, the probable presence of collagen type I suggests that some molecules of dinosaurian origin remain in these tissues.

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