Washington: Researchers have explained that the 68-million-year-old soft tissue which was discovered from the bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex did not decay and survived millennia because of the iron content in the dinosaur`s body.
Mary Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State University explained how proteins and possibly even DNA can survive millennia.
The finding was controversial, because scientists had thought proteins that make up soft tissue should degrade in less than 1 million years in the best of conditions. In most cases, microbes feast on a dead animal`s soft tissue, destroying it within weeks.
Schweitzer thinks that the soft, pliable tissue could survive for millions of years because of the presence of iron in the dinosaur`s body.
Iron is an element present in abundance in the body, particularly in the blood, after death, it is let free from its cage. It forms minuscule iron nanoparticles and also generates free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules thought to be involved in aging.
Schweitzer said the free radicals cause proteins and cell membranes to tie in knots and they basically act like formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde, of course, preserves tissue. It works by linking up, or cross-linking, the amino acids that make up proteins, which makes those proteins more resistant to decay.
Schweitzer and her colleagues found that dinosaur soft tissue is closely associated with iron nanoparticles in both the T. rex and another soft-tissue specimen from Brachylophosaurus canadensis, a type of duck-billed dinosaur.
Dinosaurs` iron-rich blood, combined with a good environment for fossilization, may explain the amazing existence of soft tissue from the Cretaceous, a period that lasted from about 65.5 million to 145.5 million years ago, and even earlier.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.