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Scientists get blood from a stone

By David, 10 July 2015 News

A duck-billed dinosaur.

Scientists found fosilised blood cells in the bones of a hadrosaur similar to this one.
Credit: Wikimedia commons/ДиБгд

Fossilisation is not a gentle process. Flesh, skin, organs and feathers are often destroyed, leaving just the bones. Now, a team of scientists think they may have found something protected deep within those bones – dinosaur blood!

To begin, the team took small fragments from the insides of several different fossils. Looking closely with an electron microscope, they found plenty of shapes that looked like the soft tissues inside modern bones. More surprisingly, they found some shapes looked like cells.

Investigating further, the team used an ion beam on one of the samples to slice up some of the cell shapes. The 3D reconstruction made with this technique showed the shapes looked a lot like blood cells, with dense features inside each cell that looked like cell nuclei.

Fossilisation is supposed to turn everything into stone, but the scientists thought there might still be biological chemicals, such as amino acids, preserved in the fossil. They put the sample in a mass spectrometer, a machine that helps identify different chemicals. The result looked like a mixture of bone and emu blood. There were still biological chemicals preserved in the fossil!

It’s still very unlikely that we’ll ever find dino DNA and create a real Jurassic World. But with this amazing find, now we have a new way to learn about dinosaurs by looking at the tiny cells that made them tick.

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