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Organic material in ‘dino mummy’ to give clues about its evolution

London, July 2 (ANI): A mummified dinosaur unearthed in North Dakota, US, may contain traces of 66-million-year old organic material, which could provide vital information about its evolution.

The well-preserved fossil of the plant-eating hadrosaur, complete with skin and tendons, was discovered in 1999.

Named “Dakota”, it was a rare find as bacteria in the soil usually break down soft tissue quickly.

However, the rapid burial of Dakota in a waterlogged, low-oxygen environment allowed fossilisation to outpace the normal processes of microbial decay, preserving areas of soft tissue.

According to a report in New Scientist, Phil Manning and Roy Wogelius at the University of Manchester, UK, used electron microscopy and X-ray imaging to study Dakota’s fossilised skin, as well as a claw and a tendon.

They found cell-like structures comparable to those of living vertebrates.

Further analysis of the skin and claw revealed the presence of amino acids – the building blocks of proteins – suggesting that the cell-like structures were indeed cells and that organic material may have been preserved.

Manning said that the presence of amino acids, rather than whole proteins, is a good sign.

After 66 million years, proteins in soft tissue should have broken down into amino acids, so finding large proteins would likely be a sign of contamination.

The high concentrations of amino acids in the fossil, compared with only traces found in the surrounding sediment, support the idea that they came from the fossil.

The researchers hope that further analysis will confirm the presence of organic material and provide fundamental information about the evolution of this species and its descendants. (ANI)

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