Purported dinosaur soft tissue may be modern biofilms
Three years ago, a team of scientists rocked the paleontology world by reporting that they’d recovered flexible tissue resembling blood vessels from a 68-million-year-old dinosaur fossil. Now, another group suggests that such pliable material could be something much more mundane: a modern-day film of bacterial slime.
The variety of preserved tissues described in the 2005 report is impressive: After dissolving parts of a fossilized leg bone from a Tyrannosaurus rex, scientists found blood-vessel-like tubes; dark red spheres approximately the size of red blood cells; and small, elongated structures similar to osteocytes, the most common type of bone cell. Using the same technique, the team recovered similar structures from other dinosaur fossils as well. Subsequent analyses by many of the same scientists — including Mary H. Schweitzer, a paleontologist at North CarolinaStateUniversity in Raleigh —