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PLoS One. 2008 Jul 30;3(7):e2808. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002808.

Dinosaurian soft tissues interpreted as bacterial biofilms.

Author information

1
Department of Paleontology, Burke Museum of Natural History, Seattle, Washington, United States of America. tomkaye@u.washington.edu

Abstract

A scanning electron microscope survey was initiated to determine if the previously reported findings of "dinosaurian soft tissues" could be identified in situ within the bones. The results obtained allowed a reinterpretation of the formation and preservation of several types of these "tissues" and their content. Mineralized and non-mineralized coatings were found extensively in the porous trabecular bone of a variety of dinosaur and mammal species across time. They represent bacterial biofilms common throughout nature. Biofilms form endocasts and once dissolved out of the bone, mimic real blood vessels and osteocytes. Bridged trails observed in biofilms indicate that a previously viscous film was populated with swimming bacteria. Carbon dating of the film points to its relatively modern origin. A comparison of infrared spectra of modern biofilms with modern collagen and fossil bone coatings suggests that modern biofilms share a closer molecular make-up than modern collagen to the coatings from fossil bones. Blood cell size iron-oxygen spheres found in the vessels were identified as an oxidized form of formerly pyritic framboids. Our observations appeal to a more conservative explanation for the structures found preserved in fossil bone.

PMID:
18665236
PMCID:
PMC2483347
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0002808
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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