Scientists Believe They Have Found Red Blood Cells in a Dinosaur Fossil

Discoveries concerning the lives of dinosaurs don’t happen all that often, but researchers from the Imperial College London believe they may have detected what could be red blood cells and bits of connective tissue in a 75 million year-old dinosaur claw.

The published study is certainly a big one that challenges the ideas of the fossilization process, since scientists largely believed such a thing didn’t exist. Most of the time when paleontologists are out digging around for dinosaur fossils they find the hard parts of the animal like the bones. The reason for this of course being that the soft flesh parts don’t preserve well and decay rather quickly. This has led to an assumption that proteins wouldn’t last longer than about 4 million years, however, that might not necessarily be the case.


As IFL Science points out, this idea was first challenged with the discovery of soft tissue found inside a Tyrannosaurus rex leg bone back in 2005. Initially, it was dismissed that it must be something else, but through enough study scientists concluded that it was possible that soft tissue could be preserved under the right circumstances. The thing about the dinosaur claw in this case though, is that it’s in much poorer condition than the exceptionally well-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil. This begs scientists to re-examine the conditions required for such tissue to last tens of millions of years.

The researchers came upon the discovery by blasting the claw with several beams of high energy to reveal information about its surface and inner structure. The types of molecules found in the process were then compared with those found in an emu claw. Using this process, researchers discovered oval structures within the dense core that they speculate could be red blood cells. They also noted the presence of rope-like fibers similar to a protein collagen, a major component of connective tissue.

More research is needed to say for sure if the claw contains fossilized red blood cells, but the discovery could open up a whole new chapter in dinosaur physiology.

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