Conjuring up comparisons to the movie Jurassic Park, NSF-funded paleontologists at North Carolina State University found intact, still-flexible blood vessels and fibrous material consistent with collagen in the ancient T. rex's bone.
Under an electron microscope, the T. rex tissue revealed "round-to-oval bodies" virtually identical, say paleontologists, to the cell nucleus structure found in the tissue of ostriches and other modern-day birds, theoretically believed to be the descendants of dinosaurs.
Whether the dinosaur tissue will yield DNA or any other biological molecules remains to be answered.
The presence of this novel tissue is not the only surprise from this discovery, says Enriqueta Barrera, a program director in the National Science Foundation's earth sciences division, which partly funded the study. The tissue was once elastic and stretchy, and had the capacity to be dehydrated and rehydrated many times without losing this characteristic. Although the preservation of soft tissue such as this is not unique in the geologic record, this occurrence goes well beyond what has been observed in the past for dinosaurs, and reinforces the evolutionary link of dinosaurs to birds, said Barrera.