Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More on the Soft Tissue from T. rex

Soft tissue and cellular preservation in vertebrate skeletal elements from the Cretaceous to the present. 2006. M. Schweitzer et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, early on-line publication.

More on the ‘soft tissue’found in MOR 1125:

Abstract: Soft tissues and cell-like microstructures derived from skeletal elements of a well-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex (MOR 1125) were represented by four components in fragments of demineralized cortical and/or medullary bone: flexible and fibrous bone matrix; transparent, hollow and pliable blood vessels; intravascular material, including in some cases, structures morphologically reminiscent of vertebrate red blood cells; and osteocytes with intracellular contents and flexible filipodia.

The present study attempts to trace the occurrence of these four components in bone from specimens spanning multiple geological time periods and varied depositional environments. At least three of the four components persist in some skeletal elements of specimens dating to the Campanian. Fibrous bone matrix is more altered over time in morphology and less likely to persist than vessels and/or osteocytes. Vessels vary greatly in preservation, even within the same specimen, with some regions retaining pliability and other regions almost crystalline. Osteocytes also vary, with some retaining long filipodia and transparency, while others present with short and stubby filipodia and deeply pigmented nuclei, or are pigmented throughout with no nucleus visible. Alternative hypotheses are considered to explain the origin/source of observed materials.

Finally, a two-part mechanism, involving first cross-linking of molecular components and subsequent mineralization, is proposed to explain the surprising presence of still-soft elements in fossil bone. These results suggest that present models of fossilization processes may be incomplete and that soft tissue elements may be more commonly preserved, even in older specimens, than previously thought. Additionally, in many cases, osteocytes with defined nuclei are preserved, and may represent an important source for informative molecular data.

You can download the entire paper HERE. If the link is not working just go to the Royal Society web page.