Visit the Group News Blog operated by friends of Steve:

Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Seitan Worshipper: "Yahoo - T-Rex Related to Chickens"

Nice birdie

Thanks to Seitan Worshipper for this great find!

This is cool - and serendipitous, too: my kid is into dinosaurs in a
big way right now, with our first Natural History Museum trip coming
up; can't wait to dig into *this* story:

T-rex fossil yields clues to evolutionary puzzle: study

An adolescent female Tyrannosaurus rex died 68 million years ago, but
its bones still contain intact soft tissue, including the oldest
preserved proteins ever found, scientists say.

And a comparison of the protein's chemical structure to a slew of
other species showed an evolutionary link between T. rex and
chickens, bolstering the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

The collagen proteins were found hidden inside the leg bone of the T.
rex fossil, according to two studies published in the April 13 issue
of the journal Science. Collagen is the main ingredient of connective
tissue in animals and is found in cartilage, ligaments, tendons,
hooves, bones and teeth. It yields gelatin and glue when boiled in

"I mean can you imagine pulling a bone out the ground after 68
million years and then getting intact protein sequences?" said John
Asara of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, lead
author of one of the studies. "That's just mind boggling how much
preservation there is in these bones."

The previous record holder for the oldest protein tissue belonged to
collagen found in a 100,000- to 300,000-year-old mammoth bone.

The new finding will be viewed skeptically, admitted one of the
researchers involved in the two studies. "It's very, very, very
controversial because most people have gone on record saying there's
an absolute time limit to anything that's protein or DNA," said Mary
Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State

Matthew Carrano, a dinosaur curator at the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington, D.C., who was not involved in either study, said the
protein findings are robust. "Here are the pieces of the protein. If
you're going to refute this you have to explain how these pieces got
in there," Carrano said in a telephone interview.

"It's not another molecule mimicking the protein and giving off a
similar signal. This is the actual sequence."

Bone basics

The T. rex leg bone, which looks like a giant drumstick, was
unearthed by Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in 2003 in the
Hell Creek Formation, a fossil-packed area that spans Montana,
Wyoming and North and South Dakota.

In 2005, Schweitzer and her colleagues reported they had found
evidence for soft, stretchy tissue sealed inside the dinosaur's
fossilized femur. The finding made headlines, but was also questioned
by some experts.

The hard stuff of bones is all that usually remains when a dead
organism is buried beneath layers of earth. Usually, microbes devour
all the easy-to-access soft tissue. So finding relatively intact soft
tissue was a major claim.

"For centuries it was believed that the process of fossilization
destroyed any original material, consequently no one looked carefully
at really old bones," Schweitzer said.

To gather her evidence, Schweitzer ran chemical analyses, finding the
tissue reacted with antibodies from collagen taken from chicken and
other avian tissues. Also, images from high-powered microscopes
revealed a repeating series of thin stripes characteristic of
collagen fibers.

Asara then ran the tiny samples through a mass spectrometer, a
machine that measures mass and charge of individual molecules,
finding the relic tissue was indeed collagen.

Dinosaur-bird link

A comparison by Asara's team of the amino-acid sequence from the T.
rex collagen to a database of existing sequences from modern species
showed it shared a remarkable similarity to that of chickens. Amino
acids are the molecular building blocks of proteins; there are 20 of
them used by organisms to build proteins, and their precise order is
determined by instructions found in DNA.

"I'm grateful that he was able to get the [amino acid] sequences out.
That's the Holy Grail," Schweitzer told LiveScience.

This finding supports the idea that chickens and T. rex share an
evolutionary link and bolsters previous research showing that birds
evolved from dinosaurs and that birds are living dinosaurs.

"Here we have a real molecule from a real dinosaur, and it's much
more similar to a bird than it is to anything else," Carrano said.

The discovery will open the door for a suite of studies once thought
off limits in the field of paleontology. For instance, proteins could
supply more direct evidence about evolutionary links between living
and extinct organisms.

"Protein sequences often reflect little bits of the evolutionary
history of animals, how they are different or similar among groups,"
Carrano said. "This can provide information for extinct animals on
how they are related through evolution to living groups of animals if
we could pull out these kinds of molecules."

Plus, the process of fossilization remains somewhat of a mystery.
"This is a really valuable window into [fossilization] because here
you have some of the original material preserved," Carrano said.

"We would never have asked a question that required this information
in the past and that shut the whole door on those avenues of
research. And now they are potentially open to us," Carrano said.

- posted by Seitan Worshipper

Labels: , ,