Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Next Good Dinosaur News Likely To Come From Small Packages

Date:
February 20, 2006
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Dinosaurs seem bigger than life -- big bones, big mysteries. So it's a delicious irony that the next big answers about dinosaurs may come from small -- very small -- remains. "Molecules are fossils, too," said Michigan State University zoologist Peggy Ostrom. "We've shown that proteins survive in very old fossils, and proteins can tell us about diseases, about where prehistoric animals fit in the food chain, what they ate and who they are related to."

Dinosaurs seem bigger than life – big bones, big mysteries. So it's a delicious irony that the next big answers about dinosaurs may come from small – very small – remains.

"Molecules are fossils, too," said Michigan State University zoologist Peggy Ostrom. "We've shown that proteins survive in very old fossils, and proteins can tell us about diseases, about where prehistoric animals fit in the food chain, what they ate and who they are related to."

Ostrom joins six other scientists engaged in various versions of CSI: Jurassic Park. The symposium, "New Approaches to Paleontological Investigation," at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting Friday explores cutting edge technology used to divine new information from ancient bits of bone and tissue.

One of the field's hottest topics is whether proteins and DNA survive the test of time. Ostrom is putting her bet on proteins and is working with an international team from Michigan, the Smithsonian and York and Cardiff Universities in the UK to track down these building blocks of bone.

Ostrom works in a budding area known as paleoproteomics. Like conventional paleontologists, the search is to reveal the history of life on Earth. But tacking on proteomics means scrutinizing life at a molecular level – life that existed thousands of years ago.

Ostrom's work has spanned from examining organic matter in meteorites to reconstructing who eats who in the food web from the tropics to the arctic. The trail is laid by stubbornly durable molecules. She uses mass spectrometry, an analytical technique that determines what molecules are present.

Molecules may be tiny, but they can be tough, Ostrom said. The plant that a mastodon munched some 10,000 years ago disperses through the animal's body, sprinkling molecules of itself through tissue and hair -- vivid scientific evidence of the adage "you are what you eat."

"It just takes two or three pinches of bone powder to find molecular evidence," Ostrom said. "We have protein sequences from material believed to be in range of half a million years old. We are carefully working our way back in time."

She said it appears some proteins can endure longer than DNA. In a recent study Ostrom's students found that a protein in bone in an environment void of oxygen (say, if it's been resting in a swamp) can last for 200 hours at temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius.

"If we have a protein sequence from bone, we can tell if the material is an original part of the organism that will provide interesting information about its past. We can know where it came from." Ostrom said. "Our goal is to use a variety of technologies new to paleontology to develop a deeper understanding of prehistoric life -- and everyone dreams of embellishing our understanding of dinosaurs."

###

Ostrom's work is funded by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Next Good Dinosaur News Likely To Come From Small Packages." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 February 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060220102415.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2006, February 20). Next Good Dinosaur News Likely To Come From Small Packages. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060220102415.htm
Michigan State University. "Next Good Dinosaur News Likely To Come From Small Packages." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060220102415.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 14, 2014) A hoard of Viking artifacts dating back over 1,000 years is discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins