Researchers from North Carolina State University have confirmed that blood vessel-like structures found in an 80 million-year-old hadrosaur fossil are original to the animal, and not biofilm or other contaminants. Their findings add to the growing body of evidence that structures like blood vessels and cells can persist over millions of years, and the data not only confirm earlier reports of protein sequences in dinosaurs, they represent a significant advance in methodology.
The researchers confirmed their results by performing the same process with bones from modern archosaurs, such as chicken and ostrich, which are living relatives of the dinosaurs. In both the modern and ancient samples, peptide sequences matched those found in blood vessels. Their methodology also allowed the researchers to validate previously reported sequences and recover additional sequences because only the vessels were extracted, which increased the observance of cellular proteins. 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