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NOVA scienceNOW: T. Rex Blood?

Program Overview

Scientists studying material extracted from the interior of remarkably well-preserved fossilized dinosaur bones have made an astonishing discovery—delicate soft-tissue structures, including possible blood vessels and red blood cells. These tissues could yield important biological clues and shed considerable light on dinosaur physiology.

This NOVA scienceNOW segment:

  • describes the discovery of an unusual trove of extraordinarily well-preserved dinosaur skeletons from the African island of Madagascar. The bones, 65 to 70 million years old, are unstained and free of minerals such as iron and manganese that typically build up in fossils.

  • presents the novel idea that people can retrieve what once existed as soft tissue inside a dinosaur's bones.

  • details how paleobiologist Mary Schweitzer soaked fossil samples in acid to dissolve away the mineral part of bone and revealed the inner tissues, which were spongy, flexible, and soft.

  • reports that Schweitzer found what appear to be transparent, hollow, flexible, branching blood vessels containing red blood cells as well as osteocytes, the cells that produced bone when the dinosaur was alive.

  • explains that these soft tissues can reveal vast amounts of biological information, such as how quickly dinosaurs grew, diseases that afflicted dinosaurs, how an individual dinosaur might have died, how closely related birds and dinosaurs are, and whether dinosaurs were warm- or cold-blooded.

  • suggests that the soft, organic tissues inside a bone can undergo their own kind of fossilization, bonding with the surrounding soil, minerals, and bacteria to form bundles of tough, chemically altered molecules that can defy the odds and last through the ages.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
NOVA scienceNOW: T. Rex Blood?

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