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See the blood vessels of an 80-million-year-old dinosaur

Credit: NC State University

Credit: NC State University

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Friday, December 11, 2015, 2:23 PM - For the first time, paleontologists have isolated original blood vessels from a dinosaur that lived 80-million years ago.

The findings published by researchers from North Carolina State University show the vessels carried blood through the leg of a Brachylophosaurus canadensis, otherwise known as a duck-billed dinosaur that measured about 30-feet long.

The femur bone was excavated in Montana in 2007. However, it wasn't established whether or not the blood vessels were made of organic matter, if they were original to the dinosaur or if they had been contaminated over the years.

It has now been proven that the specimen is original to the dinosaur, making the vessels the oldest on record to survive with their original components, according to the study.

Molecular paleontologist Tim Cleland, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, worked with a graduate student at NC State a few years back to demineralize a piece of the leg bone and recover soft-tissue structures.

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Researchers were able to analyze the bone with high resolution mass spectrometry, which separates molecules by weight. In addition, they used antibodies to detect specific proteins. The scientists successfully identified peptide sequences belonging to myosin, a protein found in smooth muscles associated with the walls of blood vessels.

In order to validate the find, the procedure was also used on the bones of chickens and ostriches, both of which are living relatives of dinosaurs. Sure enough, the peptide sequences were very similar in both the modern and ancient samples.

"This study is the first direct analysis of blood vessels from an extinct organism, and provides us with an opportunity to understand what kinds of proteins and tissues can persist and how they change during fossilization," Cleland said in a NC State press release. "This will provide new avenues for pursuing questions regarding the evolutionary relationships of extinct organisms, and will identify significant protein modifications and when they might have arisen in these lineages."

Researchers hope to learn more about how tissues preserve over time and how these animals adapted to their environment.

Source:Study | NC State News

Watch more: Canada's oldest dinosaur bones revealed. Here's where

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