Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Creationists, get your rain gear on. Climb into your arks. You’re about to suffer a real flood of Cosmotic truth that’ll drown all your fruitless denials of natural selection. But who’ll be your Noah this time now that we know that Noah is a mythological account of the creation of species?

For a long time, now, creationists have loved to claim that no one can prove that major species have evolved from one to another, but now, science can show that birds evolved from dinosaurs. As the story below shows, that hypothesis has now become a theory, a major step toward the claim becoming a FACT!

The one thing I’m ashamed of is that I forgot to detail for myself and you readers just where I got this story from. This morning, I saw it in a hard copy of the Oregonian. I’m sure I also saw the news in The Columbian yesterday, but I took this story from the Internet. Maybe I got it from an AP release. I apologize for my blunder here.

WASHINGTON - Researchers have decoded proteins from a 68 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex, the oldest such material ever found. The unprecedented step, once thought impossible, adds new weight to the idea that today's birds are descendants of the mighty dinosaurs.

"The door just opens up to a whole avenue of research that involves anything extinct," said Matthew T. Carrano, curator of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

While dinosaur bones have long been studied, "it's always been assumed that preservation does not extend to the cellular or molecular level," said Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University.

It had been thought that some proteins could last a million years or more, but not to the age of the dinosaurs, she said.

So, when she was able to recover soft tissue from a T. rex bone found in Montana in 2003 she was surprised, Schweitzer said.

And now, researchers led by John M. Asara of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have been able to analyze proteins from that bone.

The genetic code that directs the development of living things is the DNA, but that is more fragile and they didn't find that.

"But proteins are coded from the DNA, they're kind of like first cousins," Schweitzer said
What Asara's team found was collagen, a type of fibrous connective tissue that is a major component of bone. And the closest match in creatures alive today was collagen from chicken bones.

Schweitzer and Asara report their findings in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
"Most people believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but that's all based on the architecture of the bones," said Asara. "This allows you to get the chance to say, 'Wait, they really are related because their sequences are related.' We didn't get enough sequences to definitively say that, but what sequences we got support that idea."

"The fact that we are getting proteins is very, very exciting," said John Horner of Montana State University and the Museum of the Rockies.

And, he added, it "changes the idea that birds and dinosaurs are related from a hypothesis to a theory."

To scientists that's a big deal.

In science, a hypothesis is an idea about something that seems probable, while a theory has been tested and is supported by evidence. Previously, the bird-dinosaur relationship was based on similarities in the shape of bones, now there is solid evidence of a relationship at the molecular level.

Horner, who found the bones studied by Schweitzer and Asara, said this is going to change the way paleontologists go about collecting specimens — they will now be looking for the best preserved items, often buried in sand or sandstone sediments.

This summer, he said, his museum is organizing nine different field crews involving more than 100 people to search for fossils in Montana and Mongolia.

Asara explained that he was working on a very refined form of mass spectrometry to help detect peptides — fragments of proteins — in tumors as part of cancer research.

In refining the technique, he had previously studied proteins from a mastodon, and when he heard of Schweitzer's finding soft tissues in a T. rex bone he decided to see if he could detect proteins there also.

He was able to identify seven different dinosaur proteins from the bone and compared them with proteins from living species. Three matched chickens, two matched several species including chickens, one matched a protein from a newt and the other from a frog.
Co-author Lewis Cantley of Harvard Medical School noted that this work is in its infancy, and when it is improved he expects to be able to isolate more proteins and seek more matches.

"Knowing how evolution occurred and how species evolved is a central question," Cantley said.

The Smithsonian's Carrano, who was not part of the research teams, said the report is an important confirmation of Schweitzer's techniques and shows that "the possibility of preservation is more than we had expected, and we can expect to see more in the future."
Matt Lamanna, a curator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, called the finding "another piece in the puzzle that shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that dinosaurs are related to birds." Lamanna was not part of the research team.

So, does all this mean that a T. rex would have tasted like chicken? The researchers admit, they don't know.

Both research teams were supported by the National Science Foundation and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Schweitzer had additional support from

NASA and Asara had added support from the Paul F. Glenn Foundation.


The photos are the result of yet another rainy day drive I took, this time along the Washougal River on the Washougal River Road until I dead-ended at Dugan Falls and took these pictures. The drive was nice enough and soothed my mind, but but but but. . . . But now I'm reading The Whirling Wu Li Masters (physics, specifically quantum mechanics) and have also in hand Holy Blood Holy Grail (history) out of the library (my first book checked from the Vancouver Public Library) and behind those two, not counting the 50 books I still have to read that I bought while working at the Friend's bookstore in Spokane, is Antonio Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens, another book about the brain and consciousness. What is it after all? So my blood is beginning to warm up a bit and maybe I will survive the disempowerment that moving to the Coast has shocked my consciousness with.

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