Scientists have discovered a 195-million-year-old dinosaur that may contain the oldest soft tissue ever found. The beast is known as a Lufengosaurus. It may not be as large or popular as its Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor counterparts, but the plant-eater measures around 26 feet long and lived in the early Jurassic period.
According to Nature Communications, tiny bits of collagen in one of its ribs and traces of blood might be located within the extinct creature. Collagen is the protein located within connective tissue.
Fossils from the Lufengosaurus are typically found in Lufeng in China's Yunnan Province where a nest of fossilized embryos was found in 2013.
Collagen is a common finding amongst dug up dinos, but this one is special considering the oldest prior discovery was a hadrosaur femur that was 80-million-years-old.
Robert Reisz is a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga as well as a co-author of the study. He told AFP, "We have shown the presence of protein preserved in a 195-million-year-old dinosaur, at least 120 million years older than any other similar discovery."
Reisz also says, "These proteins are the building blocks of animal soft tissues, and it's exciting to understand how they have been preserved."
Prior discoveries of soft-tissue required a grindstone or acid to dissolve the bones. The Lufengosaurus bones were examined using a synchrotron, similar to an x-ray machine about the size of a football field located at the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center in Taiwan.
The synchrotron is much clearer and makes it possible to examine the 195-million-year-old animal without damaging the fossils. Unfortunately, it is impossible to extract the DNA of the dinosaur in order to breed the extinct animals for use in a theme park. That technology is still considered science fiction.