Proteins are one of the essential building blocks of life – think of them as the skilled, manual labour in your body carrying out all essential tasks necessary to keep you functioning. These workers are found all across nature and whilst the specific roles and structures of the proteins differ from species to species, their basic function remains the same and has done for millions of years.
Up until recently, it was believed that proteins could not survive beyond 100,000 years, however scientists from North Carolina State University in Raleigh have found fragments of this biological workforce in the 80 million year old remains of the duck-billed dinosaur Brachylophosaurus canadensis.
Previously the same scientists found protein fragments in a thighbone of the much cooler and more famous Tyrannosarus rex species, however there was some dispute about whether the find was genuine or whether some other protein source had contaminated the samples. The scientists have now taken steps to address this, and this time, have hopefully proven beyond doubt that they have isolated genuine dino-protein.
The team say that they see similarities between the protein in the Brachylophosaurus canadensis, the T. rex and that found in chickens and ostriches, supporting the theory that birds are the distant relatives of the dinosaurs. Research like this can hopefully provide us with more information about the creatures that once ruled the earth, but may also help inform the origin of some of the species we see on earth today.