Monday, April 16, 2007

Tyrannosaurus Rex Probably Tasted Like Chicken!

Several items on the MSNBC Science Page are pertinent to some things I was discussing with MLQ3 on The Explainer recently--first the report that the mass extinction event which killed off most of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago may not have been necessary to the rise of mammals and their eventual domination of life on planet earth. The prestigious journal Nature ("The Best In Science Journalism") is quoted as saying recent studies indicate mammals were already diversifying rapidly even long before the asteroid or comet which landed off the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico arrived. The relatively short length of DNA sequences among avian species has been thought to be associated with flight, which at least supports the belief I mentioned to Manolo among many experts that dinosaurs may have had feathers and rather more colorful appearance than the gray lizard portrayals of Hollywood. There is some very exciting new work making stronger the theorized descent of modern day bird species from ancient dinosauria, including Tyrannosaurus Rex, based on research being done on bird and dino genome sequences by Chris Organ of Harvard University. There is also a report in the journal Science about protein residues in well-preserved T-Rex bones found by the famous paleontologist, Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies, which are morphologically close to that found in ostrich bones. Imagine a one ton drumstick. Now that's something for Colonel Sanders to think about!

I have a good number of science-related links on my blogroll which regular Philippine Commentary readers have probably noted. Among my favorites are NewScientist (ShortSharp Science blogs) which concentrates on science news around the Web; A Blog Around the Clock (which tends towards the items on science, religion, the brain and sex); the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) which has a lot of stuff on science education; Berkeley Lab News from UC Berkeley's Lawrence Laboratory which has a lot of leading edge reports on high energy particle physics, astronomy, material science and similar physics-related stuff; and of course the blog of Richard Dawkins, one of my favorite Darwinian evolutionary science writers and philosophers. Most of these places have highly technical discussions but are accessible to any intelligent reader willing to spend some time in perhaps unfamiliar but fascinating territory. Science writing and blogging are in a golden age, and why not? Scientists, like the physicist Sir Tim Berners Lee (to whose tribe I proudly belong) invented the World Wide Web. They are happily taking advantage of it. Enjoy everyone!


blackshama said...

What really is amazing is that proteins can be found in 65-70 million year old fossils.

The Tyrannosaur-bird link is no longer much questioned. Morphological similarities imply close phylogenetic relationships between some dinosaurs and birds.

Interesting questions now include "Did feathers evolve for other reasons aside from flight?"

But we have to be careful about inferring more than what the data can tell us.

Collagen similarities can be a product of convergent evolution.

Jego said...

"Did feathers evolve for other reasons aside from flight?"

Temperature regulation, if dinosaurs were warm-blooded. Smaller dinosaurs would have feathers or some other covering while large dinosaurs would probably be naked since their large size would help keep their temperatures at an optimum level. We see this today. More massive mammals are relatively hairless.

Also, not all modern birds fly but have feathers nevertheless.

Cocoy said...

indeed. very fascinating.

one of the guys on digg or, i forget which, wrote this in reaction to the T'Rex-chicken link when it came out a few days ago:

finally answer to which came first: the chicken or the egg? the dinosaur.