Mummified dinosaur skin yields up new secrets

Jul 01, 2009
Microprobe image of silicon distribution in a tendon from Dakota.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from The University of Manchester have identified preserved organic molecules in the skin of a dinosaur that died around 66-million years ago.

The well-preserved of the plant-eating hadrosaur - known as ‘Dakota’ - has been analysed by researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The team report how the fossil's soft tissues were spared from decay by fine sediments that formed a mineral cast.

A wide range of tests have shown that the fossil still holds cell-like structures, although the constituent proteins have decayed.

Advanced imaging and chemical techniques have revealed that the mummified duckbilled dinosaur had two layers of skin - just like the skin of modern birds and reptiles, which scientists believe are closely related to duckbilled .

They believe the hippo-sized Dakota fell into a watery grave, with little oxygen present to speed along the decay process. Meanwhile, very fine sediments reacted with the soft tissues of the animal, forming a kind of cement.

As a result, the 66 million-year-old fossil still retains some of the organic matter of the original dinosaur, mixed in with the minerals.

"You're looking at cell-like structures; you slice through this and you're looking at the of dinosaur ,” said Dr Phil Manning, Senior Lecturer in Palaeontology & Research Fellow School of Earth, Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences (SEAES). “That is absolutely gobsmacking."

Provided by University of Liverpool (news : web)

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User comments : 10

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Mercury_01
not rated yet Jul 01, 2009
I am officially gobsmacked!
bnlsla
not rated yet Jul 01, 2009
Gobsmacking...?
gopher65
not rated yet Jul 01, 2009
Unfortunately even broken fragments of DNA decay after ~1 million years, so there is no chance of cloning one of these:(. Too bad.
tkjtkj
not rated yet Jul 01, 2009
and again, or is it again and again and again, that physorg refuses to show actual pics! Yeah, they have an Art department .. but no scientists!



sigh.



This has been the problem with this site since its inception.
otto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 01, 2009
Does anyone think that we will eventually know enough about genetics that we will be able to write the code for hadrosaur knowing only what we can learn from it's remains; it's size, shape, construction, environment and so forth? There must be only so many variables, and many limitations, to the range of potential animals for a given set of constraints-
Landman
not rated yet Jul 02, 2009
Does anyone think that we will eventually know enough about genetics that we will be able to write the code for hadrosaur knowing only what we can learn from it's remains?


I think it is possible that we will evetually know enough about developmental genetics and morphology that we could write an ontogenic "program" that would recreate the shape and size of the hadrosaur. This might happen as soon as 10-25 years from now.

It seems less likely that we could ever know its exact biochemistry, as some of the needed evidence is molecule-sized. However, there may have been trillions of copies of some such molecules, and if one assumes that nanotech could eventually allow a precise atom-by-atom analysis of a fossil and its surroundings, a few might still be undecayed, and there might be sufficient information there to resolve most questions about the DNA sequences and protein expression in various tissues. I'd guess we're talking at least 50-100 years in the future though.
jeffsaunders
3 / 5 (2) Jul 02, 2009
it is harder to put a time line on these things than you might at first think. Most sci-fi written in the 1940's had us pictured with colonies on the moon and mars by the year 2000 and many had us pictured with enhanced robotics as well.

When in that department we are still possible 50 years away. Medicine and genetics has made great advances but we are still having trouble with the basic anti-biotics and they have been around for 50 years already.

So in predicting any advancement from understanding some DNA to be able to go to the next step of constructing an animal based on that DNA is a very big step.
SexyArchaeologist
not rated yet Jul 02, 2009
Five stars for use of gobsmacking!
Mercury_01
not rated yet Jul 02, 2009
Yeah, double word score!!!
jbeekman
not rated yet Jul 04, 2009
Smacked of Gob?