Endogenous proteins found in a 70-million-year-old giant marine lizard

May 2, 2011, Lund University

Endogenous proteins found in a 70-million-year-old giant marine lizard
One of the most well preserved mosasaur sculls in the world. Fossil at Museum of Paleonthology, University of California Berkeley, California. Photo: Johan Lindgren
(PhysOrg.com) -- With their discovery, the scientists Johan Lindgren, Per Uvdal, Anders Engdahl, and colleagues have demonstrated that remains of type I collagen, a structural protein, are retained in a mosasaur fossil.

The scientists have used synchrotron radiation-based infrared microspectroscopy at MAX-lab in Lund, southern Sweden, to show that amino acid containing matter remains in fibrous tissues obtained from a mosasaur bone.

Previously, other research teams have identified collagen-derived peptides in dinosaur fossils based on, for example, mass spectrometric analyses of whole bone extracts.

The present study provides compelling evidence to suggest that the recovered are primary and not contaminants from recent bacterial biofilms or collagen-like proteins.

Endogenous proteins found in a 70-million-year-old giant marine lizard
KConfocal microscopic pictures of an osteocyte-similar structure. Osteocytes are cells that are producing typ I collagen. Photo: Johan Lindgren

Moreover, the discovery demonstrates that the preservation of primary and endogenous biomolecules is not limited to large-sized bones buried in fluvial sandstone environments, but also occurs in relatively small-sized skeletal elements deposited in marine sediments.

A paper reporting the discovery, 'Microspectroscopic Evidence of Cretaceous Bone Proteins' is now available in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

Endogenous proteins found in a 70-million-year-old giant marine lizard
Infrared microspectroscopy of fibres isolated from a mosasaur bone. (a) SEM-picture of the fibres. The white square marks the area measured by synchrotron light. (b) Absorbans spectra from the fibre bundle reproduced in a (red=synchrotron light; blue=conventional light). (c) Comparison between absorbans spectra from recent typ I collagen, osteoid from a recent monitor lizard (varan), and fibres from a mosasaur (Prognathodon). Photo and source: Johan Lindgren


  • Mosasaurs are a group of extinct varanoid lizards that inhabited marine environments during the Late Cretaceous (approximately 100-65 million year ago).
  • Collagen is the dominating protein in bone.
  • The scientists have applied a broad spectrum of sophisticated techniques to achieve their results. In addition to synchrotron radiation-based infrared microspectroscopy, and amino acid analysis have been performed.
  • Virtually all experiments have been made in Lund. At MAX-lab, the experiments have been conducted at the MAX I ring, beamline 73.

Explore further: Mosasaur fossil at Natural History Museum of L.A. County re-explores 85-million-year-old sea monster

More information: www.plosone.org/article/info%3 … journal.pone.0019445

Related Stories

Bones at the nanoscale

November 7, 2006

Scientists from Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility have just discovered the way deformation at the nanoscale takes place in a bone by studying it with the synchrotron X-rays. This ...

Unlocking the past with the West Runton Elephant

March 30, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from the University of York and Manchester have successfully extracted protein from the bones of a 600,000 year old mammoth, paving the way for the identification of ancient fossils.

Recommended for you

Preventing chemical weapons as sciences converge

November 15, 2018

Alarming examples of the dangers from chemical weapons have been seen recently in the use of industrial chemicals and the nerve agent sarin against civilians in Syria, and in the targeted assassination operations using VX ...

Rare fossil bird deepens mystery of avian extinctions

November 13, 2018

During the late Cretaceous period, more than 65 million years ago, birds belonging to hundreds of different species flitted around the dinosaurs and through the forests as abundantly as they flit about our woods and fields ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 02, 2011
Is it in any way possible to extract any DNA from the specimen?
3 / 5 (2) May 02, 2011
"One of the most well preserved mosasaur sculls in the world" - hmm...wonder what the difference is between a "scull" and a "skull"? I thought "sculling" had to do with the movement of a fish or boat hull through the water.
1 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
to redicule a corrective thought shows ones's self...

Tis best to accept and move on.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.