Magazine article Science News

Protein Identified in Dinosaur Fossils

Magazine article Science News

Protein Identified in Dinosaur Fossils

Article excerpt

A team of molecular biologists and paleontologists has identified a protein preserved in dinosaur bones, opening up the possibility of using ancient molecules to help sort out the controversial relationships among dinosaurs and other vertebrates.

Scientists have long considered it highly unlikely that they would find proteins in material more than a few million years old, because such organic molecules usually decay far sooner. Yet several research teams in the past few years have reported detecting proteins in very old fossils, including dinosaur bones (SN: 5/4/91, p.277). In the dinosaur case, however, the researchers did not know which proteins they had detected, and many scientists wondered whether the proteins had come from bacteria or other sources of contamination.

Now, Gerard Muyzer of Leiden University in the Netherlands and his colleagues report using immunological tests to identify a specific bone protein called osteocalcin in several dinosaur fossils that date back 75 million and 150 million years. They discuss their work in the October GEOLOGY.

"If it is indigenous, then it is the oldest protein," says Lisa Robbins, a micro-paleontologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Muyzer's group identified the dinosaur protein through an antibody that binds to osteocalcin, a small molecule present in the bones of vertebrate animals. The antibody test found osteocalcin in the bones of hadrosaurs, a ceratopsian, and a sauropod dinosaur. It also detected the protein in several mammal fossils and an ancient turtle bone. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.