Oldest Dinosaur Protein Found -- Blood Vessels, More

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A confirmed dinosaur-hemoglobin discovery would open the door to the recovery of many dinosaur proteins, including DNA proteins, he noted—raising the specter of Jurassic Park-style "resurrections."

Study co-author Asara said that, so far, there's not much his team can say about the hemoglobin, which is difficult to identify with current technology.

"Although, we don't believe that it is contamination."

Fleshing Out the Family Tree

Asara analyzed the tissue samples with a mass spectrometer, which reveals chemical makeup by telling scientists the masses of different elements in a sample.

He uncovered eight collagen proteins, and a colleague compared them with samples from living animals as well as mastodon and T. rex fossils.

The results placed the duck-billed dinosaur, Brachylophosaurus canadensis, on the same family-tree branch as T. rex. And, as expected, both the duckbill and T. rex were more closely related to chickens and ostriches than to alligators and lizards.

New Respect?

The new study may dispel some of the controversy over the team's 2007 T. rex soft-tissue study—for example, critics argued that the tissue was actually introduced to the specimen through mishandling.

(See "Dinosaur Slime Sparks Debate Over Soft Tissue Finds.")

UC San Diego's Pevzner—who had been critical of the technique used to analyze the T. rex proteins—said the new study was "done the right way," with more stringent controls to guard against contamination and a higher bar for defining the material as dinosaur protein.

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