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Dinosaur Proteins

April 25, 2017

Ancient dinosaur proteins could reveal how the Mesozoic creatures dealt with high carbon dioxide levels.

Transcript

A clump of vessel-like structures Mary Schweitzer's team extracted from a Tyrannosaurus rex bone NCSU

A clump of vessel-like structures Mary Schweitzer’s team extracted from a Tyrannosaurus rex bone. (NCSU)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Proteins from dinosaurs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

More than 20 years ago, North Carolina State University paleontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer first extracted blood proteins from T. Rex fossils. She and her team have now turned their attention to what ancient dinosaur proteins can tell us about the evolution of life. For example, the structure of dinosaur hemoglobin – the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen – could reveal when animals first became warm-blooded.  

MARY HIGBY SCHWEITZER (North Carolina State University):

Warm-blooded animals have a different way of using oxygen than cold-blooded animals, and imagine if you could pull hemoglobin proteins out of a dinosaur and figure out what metabolic rate did they have?

HIRSHON:

At a meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology, she said the research could also help explain how dinosaurs endured an atmosphere much richer in carbon dioxide than our own. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard