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Tyrannosaurus Rex & Birds

May 15, 2008

Protein sequencing confirms the evolutionary relationships between dinosaurs and birds.


"From dinosaurs to birds….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

You’ve probably heard that birds are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs. That’s because birds share many physical features with dinosaur fossils. But confirming their genetic relationship was difficult because DNA breaks down quickly. However, DNA codes for proteins, which are more durable. Now scientists have sequenced a type of protein called collagen from the bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex that was unearthed in 2003. Biologist Chris Organ of Harvard University led the sequencing project.

CHRIS ORGAN (Harvard University):
Even though we only have a small number of amino acids for the tyrannosaur, there’s enough signal in those data to place it with birds.

He adds that the technique could be used to illuminate the evolutionary relationships of other extinct animals, as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.