I, for one, welcome our T. rex overlords
March 24, 2005 3:07 PM   Subscribe

T. rex soft tissue! No, not dino-kleenex -- scientists have extracted organic compounds from a fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex bone. Can Jurassic Park be far behind?
posted by jimray (42 comments total)
 
Preposterous!
posted by basicchannel at 3:21 PM on March 24, 2005


There's a key paragraph in that BBC article that needs pointing out:

'Dr Schweitzer is not making any grand claims that these soft traces are the degraded remnants of the original material - only that they give that appearance.'

Still very interesting though.
posted by crayfish at 3:25 PM on March 24, 2005


MSNBC article with more photos.
posted by odinsdream at 3:29 PM on March 24, 2005


Yay!
posted by Freen at 3:30 PM on March 24, 2005


He's just trying to be cautious. You don't want to make a mistake and it's actually some vole that crawled into the bone and got stuck.... Although it was encased in 1,000 cubic yards of sandstone.... I can't imaging what else it could be.

This is so very exciting!
posted by Freen at 3:37 PM on March 24, 2005


Preposterous!

Wouldn't be nice to grow and release a couple of these guys in a fundie compound and see how long their faith hold?
posted by kush at 3:53 PM on March 24, 2005


What's curious to me is the fact that there could be other bones in museums whose centers are of similar consistency, at least that's what I gathered from one of the articles. Did nobody think to take at least a sample from one of these bones before this one was reluctantly snapped in two?
posted by odinsdream at 4:08 PM on March 24, 2005


They'd call it the end times, and you know, in a certain sense, they'd be right.

When you've got an invisible superhero on your side, you can rationalize just about anything.
posted by Freen at 4:10 PM on March 24, 2005


Well, I can't speak for the fundies, but I for one am praying. Praying that there is intact DNA, that is.
posted by Ryvar at 4:10 PM on March 24, 2005


From basicchannel's Preposterous! Link:
At the bible banger's young scientist fair:
Looks like some of these young men and women are off to a great start in the 21st century!

In the middle school category-

2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking"

Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.

(sorry for the derail. Too funny to pass up.)
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:13 PM on March 24, 2005


Oh great now a 1 link BBC post is ... heh I can't even fake it, nevermind.

This is totally awesome.

I thought it must be a joke it seemed so unlikely - maybe frozen, or in a ancient bog or something, but it seems so wierd to me it's with normal fossils. Shows my ignorance I suppose.
posted by freebird at 4:19 PM on March 24, 2005


...Err, Balrog?
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:27 PM on March 24, 2005


There's already a fundy response to this:

It is of course much less of a surprise to those who believe Genesis, in which case dinosaur remains are at most only a few thousand years old.

I posted this in the previous thread, but it seems more appropriate here
posted by mabelstreet at 4:28 PM on March 24, 2005


Wait, how did THIS post turn into a Fundie-bashing post? I was fully in favor of fundie-bashing in the Objective Ministries post, but it seems way out of place here. I don't think a discovery of blood cells or even DNA in dino bones would change any fundie's mind about the origin of the bones... I mean, if god put them there to trick us he'd presumably do a good job of it, right?

Maybe I'm not up on the specifics of what those folks believe about dino bones. Can anyone shed some light?
posted by gurple at 4:35 PM on March 24, 2005


Yeah, sorry about the fundie bashing. Alms and I mentioned this in the aformentioned creationism science fair thread, so I think that theme has carried over.

In any event, if there is DNA, would it be possible to clone a T-Rex?

If there isn't DNA, could we reconstitute some of the cellular structure and functioning from proteins that are left?

Biologists! Help!
posted by Freen at 4:51 PM on March 24, 2005


if god put them there to trick us he'd presumably do a good job of it, right?

Absolutely. But I have to admit, this really stretches my fairly well-developed Cultural Relativism muscles to the breaking point. There's something so bizarre about this image of an Omnipotent Diety hanging around cooking up ways to fool people...

I like to imagine him (because, in this scenario, you *know* it's a Him) eyeballing the coastlines of the continents a few thousand years back, kneading the edges and continental plates to make them match up..."oh, yah, this will keep em fooled for centuries! Hah! Pangaea! hee hee hee...hey, why don't I throw some rocks from Mars around to really mess those kids up!"
posted by freebird at 5:04 PM on March 24, 2005


Lord. I'm a retard. I guess that's what I get for commenting on the first comment I see in the first thread I see on MeFi.

Apologies, all.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 5:08 PM on March 24, 2005


I dunno, freebird, if you believe in HIM, HE seems to have created both pork rinds and people who enjoy them, so I can't really imagine a limit to HIS goofiness. Personally, if I believed in all that claptrap, I'd be pretty worried about the kind of guy HE was.

Aww, look, here I go fundie-bashing, now, myself!

/Sigh
posted by gurple at 5:53 PM on March 24, 2005


On review: "that claptrap" being the dino bones stuff. I'm not picking any fights with the mainstreamers!
posted by gurple at 5:54 PM on March 24, 2005


So, which one is a spoof again? Gosh, this should be an interesting thread but the other one was better.
posted by NewBornHippy at 5:56 PM on March 24, 2005


I like pork rinds. But I bet I'd like them even more if they were made from cloned dinosaurs.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:57 PM on March 24, 2005


This is kind of like how God cooked up Black and Asian "people" just to fool us.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:59 PM on March 24, 2005


I like pork rinds. But I bet I'd like them even more if they were made from cloned dinosaurs.

Oh my goodness. This is the best projection of the real-world adaptation of technology I've seen all day.

Dino-Chicharrónes indeed. Heh.
posted by freebird at 6:17 PM on March 24, 2005


Shows my ignorance I suppose.

No, I think one of the main reasons this has never been found before is that scientists have tried not to break open fossils, assuming that they were fossilized all the way through. This is really quite extraordinary. Even michael crichton came up with that complicated amber scheme, because it wouldn't have seemed believable even in fiction for there just to be actual blood cells leftover somewhere!

The fundie bashing on this is totally silly & off topic, though. Fundie sites usually claim that dinosaurs are just not as old as we think and that they existed in old testament times and are the monsters or dragons referred to in old stories or whatever. So I really don't think this development will trip them up (as the link above shows, they will likely see it as confirmation of their position).
posted by mdn at 7:08 PM on March 24, 2005


What seems certain is that some fairly remarkable conditions must have existed at the Montana site where the T. rex died, 68 million years ago.

The finding certainly shows fossilization does not proceed as science had assumed, Schweitzer said.


Here is a HINT
posted by bevets at 7:28 PM on March 24, 2005


Dino-Chicharrónes indeed. Heh.

You think the dino rinds are something, wait until you sit down to a helping of tyranno-chitlin rex, or liver-and-a-bag-of-onions.

Imagine the haggis you could make with a brontosaurus!*

I don't care if they say it's apatosaurus now... brontos are brontos and if they have to change something they can bloody well change the "real" brontosaurus to losersaurus or wuss-a-saurus instead of messing with my beloved bronto
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:29 PM on March 24, 2005


Losersaurus? Wuss-a-saurus? You mean Barney, right?

I bet you've almost forgotten about that purple-headed abomination. And I bet you hate me for reminding you.

Hey, are you still playing The Game? Muhaha.

We should clone some dinosaurs and begin raising them as meat animals, and immediately begin eating vast numbers of them in a multitude of tasty forms - not excluding T-rex rinds. If only to reinforce the fact that the mammals won. Yeah, you heard me, you pea-brained, cold-blooded reptilian losers!
posted by loquacious at 7:51 PM on March 24, 2005


Fundie sites usually claim that dinosaurs are just not as old as we think and that they existed in old testament times and are the monsters or dragons referred to in old stories or whatever.

Just as a sidenote, I was reading the BBC article to my dad tonight and when I got to the words "68 million" he immediately interrupted me and repeated that same line nearly verbatim.

cold-blooded reptilian losers!
Dinosaur's WEREN'T . . . *sniff-sniff* Hey waitaminute, I smell SARCASM here! Pah! Nevermind.
posted by Ryvar at 8:32 PM on March 24, 2005


I rather look forward to the live-action version of Dinosaur Comics.
posted by infidelpants at 8:39 PM on March 24, 2005


Tremble, little humans.

T-Rex yearns to feed on your tasty flesh.
posted by troutfishing at 10:07 PM on March 24, 2005


heh. Dino Rinds sound gross but hilarious.

Loquacious: Perhaps remembering Barney IS worse than remembering the Game, but you do know remembering both at the same time is much, much worse.
Thanks for that.
posted by schyler523 at 10:13 PM on March 24, 2005


Inevitably, people will wonder whether the creature's DNA might also be found. But the "life molecule" degrades rapidly over thousand-year timescales, and the chances of a sample surviving from the Cretaceous are not considered seriously.

Unfortunately, it looks like Jurassic Park will in fact have to wait a few more years. It is extremely unlikely to find any DNA still intact in a fossilized bone, which was why Chrichton based his story around extracting it from mosquitoes who where crystalized in amber, greatly increasing the chance of intact DNA remaining.
posted by sophist at 11:09 PM on March 24, 2005


I'm a biologist of sorts, and I think it would be extreeeeeemely difficult to do much towards recreating a dinosaur just knowing its DNA sequence. Assuming you could resynthesize a genome the size of a dinosaur's in the first place at all, and can get it into functional chromosomal form, how would you go about creating a dinosaur zygote that is capable of development? Ie, while the DNA contains all the genetic "instructions," you need functional dinosaur proteins, as well as other molecules, at the proper levels in a cell to be able to "interpret" those instructions. I suppose you could start off sticking the dinosaur genome into an enucleated egg from the dinosaur's nearest living relative, whatever that is, but I couldn't imagine that giving rise to anything other than an abortive puddle of mush.
posted by shoos at 3:20 AM on March 25, 2005


In any event, if there is DNA, would it be possible to clone a T-Rex?

Nah. To do what we call cloning at the moment you need unfertilized eggs and a mature female to carry the embryo to term. As far as I know T Rex laid eggs and I don't know the state of cloning in egg laying animals but I imagine you'd have to build an egg somehow and get the size and yolk and all absolutely correct.

This does hold huge promise for clarification in two key areas i) how birds descend from dinosaurs and ii) the cold/warmblooded thing. You wouldn't necessarily need DNA for that either if you could see soft tissue structure. Of course TRex is only one dinosaur (and an evolutionary dead end at that) and there could have been a range of metabolic types with only the warm blooded ones surviving but I guess we'll see what they get.

I really, really hope this is actually TRex material and not contamination. The fact that it's kind of how we'd expect it to look (ie like a big bird) is exciting.
posted by fshgrl at 3:51 AM on March 25, 2005


What seems certain is that some fairly remarkable conditions must have existed at the Montana site where the T. rex died, 68 million years ago.

The finding certainly shows fossilization does not proceed as science had assumed, Schweitzer said.

Here is a HINT


sophist

Inevitably, people will wonder whether the creature's DNA might also be found. But the "life molecule" degrades rapidly over thousand-year timescales, and the chances of a sample surviving from the Cretaceous are not considered seriously.

DNA has been extracted at least 17 times
posted by bevets at 5:11 AM on March 25, 2005


bevets writes "DNA has been extracted at least 17 times"

Great link man, that site is hilarious!
[that Tyrannosaurus Rex is 698 million years old s]eems certain to whom? Not to people with their heads screwed on, who have refused to take the oath of loyalty to the Darwin Party, or signed on to the Committee to Protect the Geologic Column at All Costs. We’ll have to see if the NCSE censors this paper, preventing teachers from showing it to their students, to protect their sensitive minds from anxiety when they compare it with their textbooks.
Loyalty Oaths to the "Darwin Party"? Censor the paper? Man, that site really knows how to parody the Creationists! Good find, thanks for the link!
posted by orthogonality at 5:21 AM on March 25, 2005


fshgrl: The relation to birds always seemed to be intuitive and natural to me.

Every time I meet someone's pet cockatiel or parrot I can just see that lizard hindbrain coldly ticking along behind their beady eyes. I can just tell that they'd rather be ripping my flesh apart, if only they were large enough to finish the job.
posted by loquacious at 6:14 AM on March 25, 2005


He's just trying to be cautious.

SHE is just trying to be cautious. You GO girl!
posted by agregoli at 7:16 AM on March 25, 2005


fshgrl: The relation to birds always seemed to be intuitive and natural to me.

If you meet an ostrich, it feels completely obvious.

Every time I meet someone's pet cockatiel or parrot I can just see that lizard hindbrain coldly ticking along behind their beady eyes...

but not for that reason! Parrots especially always seem really friendly to me. they rub against you the same way cats do... well, although, there's a certain sense in which cats seem to be just waiting for you to be edible, so maybe that's not a great example :)
posted by mdn at 7:41 AM on March 25, 2005


Emus have those velociraptor claws too. Although I think emus are quite cute and not at all nightmare inducing like the Jurassic Park velociraptors.
posted by fshgrl at 8:29 AM on March 25, 2005


I thought you meant Marc Bolan. So disappointing...
posted by shipbreaker at 8:36 AM on March 25, 2005


I would have thought this post would be blowing up...I guess it rates lower than fake stories about margarine masturbation?
posted by agregoli at 9:55 AM on March 25, 2005


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