Quirks & Quarks

Dinosaur Fossils Preserve Blood Cells

Soft tissue, like blood cells and collagen, has been found in ordinary dinosaur fossils, suggesting that preservation of this kind of material may be common.

Remains of soft tissue found in ordinary bone

Scanning electron microscope images from the rib of an unidentified dinosaur shows mineralized fibres, thought to be collagen. (Sergio Bertazzo/Imperial College London)
We're used to the idea that what's left of the dinosaurs is, largely, the hard bits. Bones, teeth and claws are what paleontologists generally look for. But new work by a team, including Dr. Susannah Maidment, a paleontologist in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, suggests that the softer parts of dinosaurs - right down to individual blood cells - might be preserved in even the most ordinary fossils.

Using a range of technologies that are currently used to study nanostructures in living animals, they found what they think are blood cells and collagen remnants.

They think these are the degraded remains of the actual soft tissue from the dinosaurs. This could provide a new window on big questions, such as the nature of dinosaur metabolism.

Related Links

- Paper in Nature Communications
- Imperial College release
CBC News story
- BBC story