Pregnant T. Rex May Contain Dinosaur DNA, Discovery Could Lead To Scientists Cloning Dinosaurs

Pregnant T. Rex May Contain Dinosaur DNA, Discovery Could Lead To Scientists Cloning Dinosaurs

The holy grail of all things dinosaur may have been discovered in Montana. A pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex has been found, and not only will this discovery lead to an improved understanding on how laying eggs evolved, but scientists may be able to acquire dinosaur DNA and unravel the dinosaur genome. Lindsay Zanno, an assistant research professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University, spoke with Discovery News and commented on if it was really possible that this dinosaur fossil could contain dinosaur DNA.

“Yes, it’s possible. We have some evidence that fragments of DNA may be preserved in dinosaur fossils, but this remains to be tested further.”

The pregnant T. Rex that was discovered in Montana has been dated to be 68-million-years-old. It was determined that this dinosaur was pregnant due to the presence of medullary bone. Medullary bone is only found during pregnancy, and this is where it is believed that scientists can recover dinosaur DNA. Zanno commented further on the medullary bone.

“It’s a special tissue that is built up as easily mobilized calcium storage just before egg laying. The outcome is that birds do not have to pull calcium from the main part of their bones in order to shell eggs, weakening their bones the way crocodiles do. Medullary bone is thus present just before and during egg laying, but is entirely gone after the female has finished laying eggs.”

It seems that scientists are itching to recreate dinosaurs in our world. Earlier this week, scientists confirmed that they were able to genetically modify a chicken when they put dinosaur legs on it. The genetic modification was done to the chicken while it was in embryonic form. Last year, it was reported that scientists were able to put a dinosaur beak on a chicken using similar methods.

Archaeopteryx was a type of dinosaur that was able to fly. These types of dinosaurs had tubular fibulas ran parallel to the tibia and both reached the ankle. These bones differ from those of modern-day chickens due to the chicken legs, which only see the fibula spanning 75 percent of the length of the tibia.

In the embryonic stage, chickens appear to be very similar to a dinosaur in the same stage. Researchers were able to turn off the Indian Hedgehog gene (IHH). By shutting off this gene, the chickens were left to develop dinosaur legs while it was maturing inside of the egg. A dinosaur expert from the University of Chile said, “by inhibiting early maturation of a leg of the chicken embryo, the leg reverts to the shape that dinosaurs’ legs had.” The results of this experiment were published in the scientific journal Evolution.

The chicken/dinosaur hybrid did not live long enough to be hatched. The experiment was not designed to create a living chicken/dinosaur combination. The point of the experiment was to try and learn more about how dinosaur legs evolved the way they did to become what they are now in chickens. Alexander Vargas of the University of Chile commented further on the experiment.

“The experiments are focused on single traits to test specific hypotheses. Not only do we know a great deal about bird development, but also about the dinosaur-bird transition, which is well-documented by the fossil record. This leads naturally to hypotheses on the evolution of development, that can be explored in the lab.”

The more scientists learn about dinosaur DNA, the closer they get to cloning one. Should scientists by striving to clone a dinosaur?

[Image via AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth]