Apr 24, 2008

T. rex, grandfather to the birds

I'm still amazed that the proteins recovered after tens of millions of years in skeletal storage have confirmed the ancestry of modern birds.
To build the family tree, Asara and colleague Chris Organ compared the T. rex sequence with collagen from other animals. Those with similar collagen sequences were grouped closely together on the tree, while differences in the sequences suggested the animals had long diverged.

For the most part, the collagen tree captured relationships palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists had little reason to doubt, including T. rex's kinship to birds and the mastodon's ancestry to elephants.
Not so much that the connection is there--anyone who's followed evolutionary science even obliquely knows that the fossils point to a dinosaur-bird link--but that after 68 million years, scientists can extract and sequence collagen from a dinosaur bone..

It's one thing to imagine ancient rocks, but ancient organic material--astounding.

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