Nature is teasing us…

So today I learned just how much of a tease Nature can be. Somehow I missed the fact that back in 2000 a paleontologist named Mary Schweitzer from North Carolina State University in Raleigh discovered soft tissue in the fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex. I stumbled across this article from the Smithsonian that discusses her big find. Do you have any idea how amazing that is? I mean, we are talking about the remains of a creature that died somewhere in the vicinity of 68 million years ago. Crazy! Soft tissue typically decomposes rather quickly. The idea that it might survive being buried in the ground for so long is almost unbelievable, but apparently that is the case. According to a recent article I just read, the remarkable preservation is due to the iron from the red blood cells. Feel free to read more about it here. Seems to me like this is probably about the oldest form of jerky known to man. Suppose it tastes like chicken?

Anyhow, back to the title of my post. I am starting to think that Nature is taunting us (yes, I am anthropomorphizing a little). I mean, seriously. We find insects trapped in amber, prehistoric creatures in peat bogs and tar pits, and now we have even found preserved tissue in the fossilized remains of a T. rex buried in a desert…but can we do anything with it? No. Our current best estimate is that the longest DNA might be readable is about 1.5 million years (totally worthless after 6.8 million), and this guy is 68 million years old! Even his (or her) distant descendents, the very last of T. rex kind, died out 3 million years later, which is approximately 63.5 million years too soon for us to be able to do anything about it. Nature is like that infernal Lucy in the old Charlie Brown cartoons: always taunting us with the ball, then pulling it away at the last second…

Category(s): Dinosaurs, Science Stuff

2 Responses to Nature is teasing us…

  1. I recall an article about researchers finding a frozen mammoth. I began to wonder, with your blog post, the ethics of what this research could yield. I’m not quite suggesting Jurassic Park but perhaps cloning a mammoth by mixing elephant DNA and the ethics of creating an animal that once existed. I don’t think the article indicated it was probable or possible but the idea is still “taunting” in nature.

  2. Very interesting. I think one of the wonderful things about our world and its history is that it is chock full of things for us to discover! I don’t know if I’d say nature is taunting us, but it is certainly making a case for use to keep looking and exploring this planet that we call home!