Just in time for "Jurassic World," a fantasy movie about a live dinosaur theme park that hits theaters this week, scientists announced finding what they think are 75-million-year-old dinosaur blood cells.
Instead of the blood being encapsulated in a mosquito though, as it was fictionalized in the first "Jurassic Park," scientists found these real cells and tissue right in the fossilized bone. Unlike in "Jurassic Park" though, the scientists said these cells probably no longer contain DNA, but other cells found in a similar way could perhaps.
The researchers at Imperial College London found what the believe to be red blood cells and collagen fibers.
"We still need to do more research to confirm what it is that we are imaging in these dinosaur bone fragments, but the ancient tissue structures we have analysed have some similarities to red blood cells and collagen fibers," study author Dr. Sergio Bertazzo, a junior research fellow at the college, said in a statement. "If we can confirm that our initial observations are correct, then this could yield fresh insights into how these creatures once lived and evolved."
According to the news release from the college, the red blood cells could help scientists understand when dinosaurs became warm blooded. The collagen, if officially identified as such, could help scientists relate different groups of dinosaurs to each other.
Susannah Maidment told New Scientist the researchers "stumbled on these things completely by chance."
Now, she said in a statement, the research is "helping us to see that preserved soft tissue may be more widespread in dinosaur fossils than we originally thought."
"Although remnants of soft tissues have previously been discovered in rare, exceptionally preserved fossils, what is particularly exciting about our study is that we have discovered structures reminiscent of blood cells and collagen fibers in scrappy, poorly preserved fossils," Maidment continued. "This suggests that this sort of soft tissue preservation might be widespread in fossils. Early indications suggest that these poorly preserved fossils may be useful pieces in the dinosaur jigsaw puzzle to help us to understand in more detail how dinosaurs evolved into being warm blooded creatures, and how different dinosaur species were related."
Going forward, the researchers plan to confirm the cells and fibers are what they think they are. They then will try to find similar structures in other fossils.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
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