T. rex collagen proves ‘Jurassic Park’ an impossibility

Researchers suggest collagen sequences supposedly recovered from an ancient T. rex bone were actually contaminant peptide sequences from an ostrich. Photo by the University of Manchester

June 1 (UPI) — Collagen recovered from a Tyrannosaurus rex bone proves “Jurassic Park” will never be a reality.

While reanimating dinosaurs was always implausible from a scientific perspective, not all scientists ruled out the possibility. Some held out hope that intact protein sequences could be recovered from preserved dinosaur DNA.

When a group of researchers claimed to have recovered protein sequences from the collagen of T. rex remains, many hoped the breakthrough would make the improbable possible.

“The discovery of proteins in dinosaur bones sent a shockwave around the world, both among scientists and the public,” Mike Buckley, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester, said in a news release. “It appeared that fiction was now being converted to fact through the application of new techniques.”

Many scientists questioned the purity of protein sequences, claiming the 68-million-year-old peptides were likely to be contaminated by bacteria and the DNA of modern animals analyzed in the same laboratory.

The labs where the protein sequences were first analyzed were also used to study ostriches and alligators.

In the latest study, Manchester researchers compared protein sequences recovered from ostrich bones to the fossil peptides reported by scientists a decade ago. They found strong similarities.

“Our work set out to identify the collagen fingerprints for both ostrich and alligator and was not intending to debunk the previous studies,” Buckley said. “However, we soon realised that our results were pulling the rug from beneath the paradigm that collagen might survive the ravages of deep time.”

Researchers suggest more precise and rigorous verification methods are required for researchers claiming the discovery of ancient fossil peptides. So far, no collagen sequences older than 3.5 million years have been independently verified.

“The fossil record is offering new information on a daily basis through the application of new technology, but we must never forget that when results show us something that we really want to see, that we make sure of our interpretations,” said Phil Manning, a professor of natural history at the University of Manchester. “The alleged discovery of protein sequences in dinosaur bones has led many unsuccessful attempts to repeat these remarkable claims. It seems we were trying to reproduce something that was beyond the current detection limits of our science.”


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