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Fossil Protein

March 29, 2006

Scientists are hoping to mine dinosaur bones for the next best thing to DNA.


A new look at old bones. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the movie and book Jurassic Park, scientists use ancient DNA to bring dinosaurs back to life. Well, biogeochemist Peggy Ostrom from Michigan State University doubts DNA can last that long, but she does think she may be able to find and sequence the next best thing—dinosaur proteins. Her lab has already sequenced one type of protein in bones from a nearly 50,000-year-old horse and a half-million-year-old musk ox.

PEGGY OSTROM (Michigan State University):
So that gives us some hope that, you know, we could push back the time limits for other fossils. So we’re working our way back in time.

Proteins from dinosaur bones could tell scientists what dinosaurs ate and what diseases they had. And since proteins contain genetic information, they could also reveal new clues about how dinosaurs evolved.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.