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Red blood cells found in ancient dinosaur fossils

Red blood cells found in ancient dinosaur fossils

(Courtesy of Imperial College London)


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LONDON — Just in time for the release of the newest Jurassic Park movie, researchers announced they found remnants of blood cells and connective tissues in dinosaur fossils.

Fortunately — or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it — the researchers from Imperial College London won’t be able to use the cells to bring dinosaurs back from extinction. However, they think the discovery could provide more insight into the biology of different species.

It actually isn’t the first time researchers have found soft tissues in dinosaurs, but the discovery is significant because while previous cells were found in exceptionally well-preserved fossils, these cells were found in 75-million-year-old fossils which were “poorly preserved” in the London Natural History Museum’s collection for more than 100 years, according to the college.

“Our study is helping us to see that preserved soft tissue may be more widespread in dinosaur fossils than we originally thought,” study author Susannah Maidment said in a statement. “Early indications suggest that these poorly preserved fossils may be useful pieces in the dinosaur jigsaw puzzle to help us to understand in more detail how dinosaurs evolved into being warm-blooded creatures, and how different dinosaur species were related.”

New #dinosaur fossil study unlocks possible treasure trove of soft tissue: http://t.co/dgSFWq9PlPpic.twitter.com/dFnhEwwpgM — Imperial College (@imperialcollege) June 9, 2015

Researchers found tiny, ovoid structures that look like red blood cells while examining a fossilized dinosaur claw, according to the college. Fibrous structures similar to modern-day collagen fibers were observed in another fossil fragment.

The team noted that additional research is needed to confirm the findings, but said the possibility of being able to find blood cells and tissues in more fossils is exciting. The eight fossils the team studied are apparently in such bad condition that Maidment told the BBC she didn’t even know what dinosaur from which they came.

A study published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday details how researchers used a scanning electron microscopy device and ion beam to observe the soft tissues and slice samples. They then compared the tissues to a living emu’s blood sample using an ion mass spectrometer.

“This enabled them to compare and contrast the samples and see that their fossils had some similarities in the organic signatures to the blood cells present in the emu blood sample,” a statement from the college reads.

The team plans to continue examining fossils to determine whether the preservation of soft tissues is widespread, according to the college.

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Natalie Crofts

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