Scientists find cells from a 125-million-year-old dinosaur containing remains of organic molecules

Scientists from China say they isolated “beautifully preserved” cartilage cells from a 125-million-year-old dinosaur that contains organic molecules and could suggest that dinosaur DNA could one day be found.

Researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and of the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature have found the nuclei containing organic components and “fossilized threads of chromatin” in the cartilage of Caudipteryx, a dinosaur about the size of a peacock.

Scientists in China have isolated ‘beautifully preserved’ cartilage cells from a 125-million-year-old dinosaur containing organic molecules

They found nuclei containing organic components and fossilized chromatin in the cartilage of Caudipteryx.  The cartilage, taken from the dinosaur's right femur (close-up in b)

They found nuclei containing organic components and fossilized chromatin in the cartilage of Caudipteryx. The cartilage, taken from the dinosaur’s right femur (close-up in b)

The researchers took cells from the cartilage and stained them with a purple chemical known as hematoxylin

The researchers took cells from the cartilage and stained them with a purple chemical known as hematoxylin

In addition to the chromatin, the researchers found two types of cells in the cartilage: healthy cells and cells that were dying when the animal itself died.

The authors note that preserved cell nuclei in extinct organisms such as dinosaurs “are currently considered rare and exceptional,” but earlier examples of them have been found.

These include certain mammals, Mesozoic dinosaurs, as well as plants that are over 600 million years old.

“Recent taphonomy experiments on plants and algae have shown that nuclei are surprisingly stable and that nuclear decay is much slower in some conditions than initially thought,” they wrote in the study.

The cells had been mineralized by silification of the volcanic ash after the animal died, which allowed it to be preserved in such an incredible condition.

The cells had been mineralized by silification of the volcanic ash after the animal died, which allowed it to be preserved in such an incredible condition.

It is likely that the cells were “beautifully preserved” by the volcanic ash silica that covered the carcass.

“It’s possible that these cells were already dying before the animal died,” said Alida Bailleul, an associate professor of IVPP and a co-author of the study in a paper. pronunciation.

About the size of a peacock, Caudipteryx lived in the Early Cretaceous on the shores of Jehol Biota Lake in Liaoning Province

About the size of a peacock, Caudipteryx lived in the Early Cretaceous on the shores of Jehol Biota Lake in Liaoning Province

About the size of a peacock, Caudipteryx lived on the shores of Lake Jehol Biota in Liaoning Province during the Early Cretaceous Period.

It was able to reach speeds of 17 mph according to a 2019 study and learned to fly by accident. The first specimen was discovered in China in 1997.

The researchers took cells from the cartilage and stained them with a purple chemical known as hematoxylin.

Then they saw a core with darker purple threads, indicating that it contained some original organic molecules and chromatin.

The cartilage, which came from the dinosaur's right femur, was analyzed through a number of different chemical methods, along with chicken cartilage for comparison.

The cartilage, which came from the dinosaur’s right femur, was analyzed through a number of different chemical methods, along with chicken cartilage for comparison.

The cartilage, which came from the dinosaur’s right femur, was analyzed through a number of different chemical methods, along with chicken cartilage for comparison.

“The two specimens reacted identically, and one dinosaur chondrocyte revealed a nucleus with fossilized threads of chromatin,” the researchers wrote.

‘This is the second example of fossilized chromatin threads in a vertebrate material.

‘These data show that some of the original nuclear biochemistry has been preserved in this dinosaur cartilage material and further support the hypothesis that cartilage is highly susceptible to nuclear fossilization and a perfect candidate to better understand DNA conservation in the distant future. ‘

The cells had been mineralized by silification of the volcanic ash after the animal died, which allowed it to be preserved in such an incredible condition.

“Geological data has accumulated over the years showing that the preservation of fossils in the Jehol Biota was exceptional because of the fine volcanic ash that buried the carcasses and preserved them down to the cellular level,” said one of the co-authors. of the study, LI Zhiheng, an associate professor at IVPP, said in a statement.

More needs to be done to see if any original dinosaur DNA is still preserved, but it’s not completely ruled out, Bailleul said.

‘Let’s face it, we’re naturally interested in fossilized cell nuclei, because this is where most of the DNA would be if the DNA were to be preserved,’ explains Bailleul.

“So we have good preliminary data, very exciting data, but we’re just beginning to understand the cellular biochemistry in very ancient fossils.” At the moment we have to work more.’

The study is published in Communication biology.

HOW DID THE DINOSAURS SET OUT ABOUT 66 MILLION YEARS AGO?

Dinosaurs ruled and dominated the Earth about 66 million years ago, before suddenly becoming extinct.

The Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event is the name given to this mass extinction.

For years it was believed that the changing climate was destroying the food chain of the huge reptiles.

In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.

This is an element that is rare on Earth, but found in large quantities in space.

When dated, it coincided exactly with when the dinosaurs disappeared from the fossil record.

A decade later, scientists discovered the massive Chicxulub crater on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which dates back to the period in question.

Scientific consensus now says that these two factors are linked and that they were both likely caused by a huge asteroid that crashed into Earth.

At the projected magnitude and impact speed, the collision would have created a massive shock wave and likely triggered seismicity.

The precipitation would have created plumes of ash that likely covered the entire planet and made it impossible for dinosaurs to survive.

Other animal and plant species had shorter time spans between generations that allowed them to survive.

There are several other theories as to what caused the demise of the famous animals.

An early theory was that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs, and another holds that poisonous angiosperms (flowering plants) killed them.

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