When a group of scientists were scouring for collagen inside dinosaur bones, they were disappointed as they couldn’t find the protein they were looking for. However, they ended up discovering that the fossils were in fact home to large colonies of modern microbes.
In case you are wondering, although DNA breaks down over time, soft tissues can be transformed and can survive for more than 100 million years. While scientists debated the possibility of the claim, earlier last year a group of scientists proved the theory. As a result, the findings sparked interests in the field. Evan Saitta, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum, was one of those who were interested in researching fossils and went to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada to see if he could find collagen in the fossils.
In an official press release, Saitta outlined how he collected the samples. “There’s a single layer where there’s practically more bone than rock, it’s ridiculous how concentrated the bones are,” said Saitta. A site with lots of bone was key, because a slow, meandering dig would open up the fossils to more chances to be contaminated by the surface world. “To collect these bones in a very controlled, sterile way, you need a dig site with a ton of bone because you have to find the bone quickly, expose just enough of one end to know what it is, then aseptically collect the unexposed bit of the bone and surrounding rock all in one.”
After going through the rigorous process, he collected 75-million fossils from Centrosaurus and proceeded to examine their organic composition. Afterwards, he and his colleagues compared the fossils’ biochemical composition to that of modern chicken bones as well as shark teeth. However, the researchers couldn’t find the collagen proteins in bones or shark teeth. Interestingly, the group managed to find evidences of modern microbes.
Saitta revealed that he thinks the latest findings might explain previous reports of soft tissues inside fossils mentioned earlier. According to Saitta, his findings might help to further the emerging field of molecular paleontology.
The paper associated with the paper has been published in the journal eLife.