Scientists discover 75-million-year-old dinosaur blood and tissue

Using an electron microscope, scientists believe they've found blood cells in a 75-million-year-old dinosaur fossil. Courtesy Sergio Bertazzo

TORONTO – Is Jurassic Park one step closer to becoming a reality?

Not quite.

Scientists at the Imperial College London have found what seems to be tissue and blood from bones of dinosaurs that once roamed the planet 75 million years ago.

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The bones were originally found in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta.

Sergio Bertazzo, who specializes in electron microscopy imaging, examined eight bones from London’s Natural History Museum. Of the eight, six samples returned results of what appeared to be fibres of collagen as well as blood cells.

“Initially, I didn’t believe what he said,” said Susannah Maidment, co-author of the paper that appeared in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday. “I just thought it must be contamination or bacteria or pollen or fungus spores.”

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Maidment, a paleontologist at Imperial College, and her team contacted experts in various fields, but they all came back saying that they looked like blood cells.

Sergio Bertazzo. Copyright Laurent Mekul

The finding was particularly stunning as the bones aren’t considered to be well-preserved. Now the researchers want to examine other fossils to see if they find the same structures in them.

But a world with humans and dinosaurs living together isn’t in the near future.

“We haven’t found any genetic material,” Maidment said. “However, I think it’s always unwise to say ‘never’ in science.”

If researchers ever did find fragments of DNA in dinosaur fossils, there would likely still be missing pieces, so simply reverse-engineering a Tyrannosaurus rex, for example, wouldn’t be an easy task.

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“Even if you find DNA, that doesn’t mean we can create Jurassic Park.”

These fibre-like structures are believed to be collagen from a 75-million-year-old dinosaur. Courtesy Sergio Bertazzo

The best sample of red blood cells was found in a claw of a meat-eating dinosaur. Researchers don’t know the exact species as the bones weren’t well-preserved. Maidment believes it may have come from a gorgosaurus. Other samples come from hadrosaurs.

Using the collagen and blood cells would give paleontologists a better understanding of dinosaurs.

So, did the researchers release the news because of the release of Jurassic World?

“It was honestly a complete coincidence,” Maidment laughed. “We were hoping it would be published this time last year.”

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