Stories tagged dinosaur

Who says there can't be crime and intrigue in the world of paleontology? Here's a really interesting report of a possible black market sale of fossilized dinosaur bones, blown open by a museum paleontologist. Why do I want to think Scooby Doo and Shaggy will help solve this situation?

It's Friday, so you know the drill: time for a new Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
This week,
"Reporting in the journal Science, Paul Sereno, Ricardo Martinez and colleagues describe Eodromaeus murphi. This dinosaur was four feet long, fifteen pounds and lived 230 million-years-ago, just a few million years after dinosaurs first evolved. It looks similar to its contemporary Eoraptor, except for its long canine teeth, suggesting the newly-discovered dinosaur is an ancestor of the predatory dinosaurs, including T. rex.
It's Friday, so it's time for a new Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
This week...
"Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe a new predatory dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period in Europe. Balaur bondoc (Romanian for "stocky dragon") is huskier than its closest relative the Velociraptor and has unusual feet."

Two years ago, everyone was talking about the work of paleontologist Mary Schweitzer: she noticed that thin slices of a 68-million-year-old fossil femur from a Tyrannosaurus rex looked like they still contained soft tissue. (See photos of the bone.) Using antibodies to the collagen protein, she showed that the bone still contained intact collagen molecules—the main component of cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.

Hello, dinos?: A new study shows that preserved collagen from a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex is similar to that of chickens. (Photo courtesy Danelle Sheree)
Hello, dinos?: A new study shows that preserved collagen from a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex is similar to that of chickens. (Photo courtesy Danelle Sheree)

She used antibodies to a type of collagen extracted from chickens. The fact that the antibodies stuck suggested that T. rex collagen is similar to that of birds. And when she compared the preserved soft tissue to that of modern animals, the closest match was an emu—a flightless bird.

To learn more about the collagen in the T. rex bones, Schweitzer worked with John Asara, a chemist at Harvard University, to analyze it using mass spectrometry.

The Economist describes the technique this way:

This technique identifies molecules (or fragments of molecules) from a combination of their weight and their electric charges. Knowing the weights of different sorts of atoms (and of groups of atoms that show up regularly in larger molecules, such as the 20 different amino acids from which proteins are assembled) it is usually possible to piece together fragments to form the profile of an entire protein.

When Asara compared the profile he'd created to proteins from living animals, the closest matches were to chickens and ostriches. (Schweitzer and Asara's study was published in the April 13, 2007, issue of the journal Science.)

Many paleontologists already believed, based on fossil bones, that birds are dinosaurs or their descendants. But this new paper provides even more evidence of the fact.

Buzz stories on the subject from last year:

Recent news articles:

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and I'm too lazy to look for real science news, so here's a cute story about how rock star Brian Eno identified a diosaur fossil that a fan was wearing as a necklace.


Two years ago, a scientist in Australia has a really lucky day. Tired after driving for several hours, he stopped to stretch his legs and -- boom! -- he tripped over a 100-million-year-old pterosaur jaw. (Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that lived at the same time as dinosaurs. The Science Museum has one hanging in our main lobby.) The jaw bone was encased in rock; after two years of careful preparation, the bone is finally free and can be studied by scientists.

(OK, so it wasn't a technically a dinosaur, and it was actually off to the side of the road, but c'mon, how often do I get to reference my favorite bad song of the Seventies?)


Dinosaur body found

Imagine how much we could learn if instead of only bones, we could find a dinosaur body. Nate Murphy, curator of paleontology at the Judith River Dinosaur Institute, along with 20 experts in various fields are X-raying and photographing a dinosaur named Leonardo this week. In October, Murphy plans to present his findings at a medical imaging conference in Houston.
Leonardo is a 77-million-year-old fossilized mummy of a duck billed dinosaur known as a brachylophosaur. Since the mummy is now stone, it had to be removed in one, world record sized, 6.5 ton chunk. Leonardo's stomach contents are so well-preserved that researchers can tell what he had for his last supper; a salad of ferns, conifers, and magnolias. The stomach also contained the pollen of more than 40 different plants. The scientific work on Leonardo will keep paleontologists occupied for years. Murphy hopes the studies will build interest and funding for more tests — particularly CT scans that could take three-dimensional images instead of the one-dimensional pictures captured in the X-rays this week.

X-rays show more than just bones.

Until now, the technology didn't exist to look at what was inside of Leonardo. Over the next 20 months, the Discovery Channel is filming how non-destructive x-rays combined with imaging technology from Eastman Kodak that is 10 times as sensitive as film, and a computer that sifts through the layers of data will reveal skin and bone and Leonardo's insides. Here is a Discovery Channel video about Leonardo.

See an X-ray of our mummy.

Here at the Science Museum of Minnesota we used X-ray imaging to look inside our mummy. You can see where the heart has been relocated. Our mummy is in Collections Gallery on the fourth floor.

Sources: National Geographic; Great Falls Tribune