Scientists have extracted what looks like blood vessels and intact cells from a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex.
The well-preserved T. rex fossil was found in Montana in 2003. Part of the fossil was sent to scientists at North Carolina State University, USA.
To expose the femur, or leg bone, scientists dissolved the mineral material that was surrounding it. They were amazed to find red and brown structures that resembled cells. Also, within these cells were smaller objects similar in size to the nuclei of blood cells.
Mary Schweitzer, who led the team, told the journal Science ‘it was totally shocking. I didn't believe it until we'd done it 17 times.’
The scientists reported that the features on the surface of the T. rex vessels were virtually indistinguishable to those on ostrich vessels.
Finding soft tissue in very old specimens is extremely rare. Once you have soft tissue you have the potential to extract DNA.
‘DNA is not known to be preserved from anything older than about one million years,' says Dr Angela Milner, dinosaur expert at the Natural History Museum. 'So cloning a T. rex, as in the film Jurassic Park is still in the realms of science fiction.’
Dr Milner adds that the scientists work ‘suggests that biological and biochemical information might be recoverable from a wide range of fossil material’.