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Schweizter and Soft Tissue Recovery
At the SVP meeting, there was an interesting investigation on the
metagenomics of dinosaur soft tissue preservation. The gist of it was
that the material recovered from Mesozoic fossil bone had gene &
protein material that matched WAY too many living things, and matched
them WAY too perfectly. One thing to be 'turkey-like' (and therefore
distantly related to birds), another to be a plain old turkey. The
authors at the talk supposed that genetic and protein material had
leached through the soils, and invaded the fossil bones (Researchers
in the tropics, as far as I understand it, do (somewhat similar)
environmental DNA sampling to ID the different genetic types of things
that are out in the forest (w/o having to ID the living animal).
That's a pretty fascinating discovery in and of itself. They also felt
that bacteria could make (and indeed showed similar) tubular
structures that look like blood vessels.
Later I noticed a poster from (if I recall correctly) someone in Dr.
Schweitzer's group identifying the material in the soft tissue as
So what does anyone think about this, seems like the issue is still
open, and this material was recovered quite a while ago.
Has there been any sectioning of the 'goop' that Dr. Schweizter found,
for histological examination (beyond what she's already done)? Does it
react with biological stains that can distinguish between material
like collagen and bacterial films? If genes and proteins from the
environment are leaching into the fossil, should'nt they also be in
the surrounding rock, indeed, might it be possible to detect higher
concentrations closer to the surface and outside the bones? Coring at
the site might be informative in that respect.
It it's dinosaurian, I'd expect the center of the bone to have the
highest concentration of material (goop, genes, proteins), if it's
leaching, i'd expect the opposite. Seems like that sort of analysis
could be done.
Robert J. Schenck
Kingsborough Community College
Physical Sciences Department
S332 ph# 718-368-5792
Follow Me on Twitter: @Schenck
KCC Class Schedule on Google Calendar: http://tinyurl.com/mqwlcy