New DNA evidence bolsters idea that modern birds are descendants of dinosaurs

April 15, 2007 | By | 11 Replies More

This article from LiveScience shows what incredible things can be accomplished when scientists search hard to find even a bit of surviving soft tissue in a T-rex femur:

An adolescent female Tyrannosaurus rex died 68 million years ago, but its bones still contain intact soft tissue, including the oldest preserved proteins ever found, scientists say. And a comparison of the protein’s chemical structure to a slew of other species showed an evolutionary link between T. rex and chickens, bolstering the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs . . . A comparison by Asara’s team of the amino-acid sequence from the T. rex collagen to a database of existing sequences from modern species showed it shared a remarkable similarity to that of chickens.


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Category: Evolution, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (11)

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  1. Skblllzzzz says:

    So T-Rex was in fact a killer-chicken. What makes that me, when I have chicken for dinner…..?

  2. Edgar Montrose says:

    Given the recent claims that T-Rex was a scavenger, I'd have expected "vulture".

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    I can hear the Fundie response: soft tissue can't survive intact for tens of millions of years; therefore, the only possible explanation is that the earth is just 6000 years old and these scientists must be falsifying their data to serve their Darwinist agenda.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Grumpy: You're right. They'll say, "Because my Bible says it can't be so!" And why are they so sure that their Bible is perfectly accurate? "Just because." Reasoning like this is beating science in many 21st Century schools and churches. Unbelievable.

  5. Edgar Montrose says:


    There is an old adage, sometimes known as Hanlon's razor, that says, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." I think that there should be a corollary that says, "Never attribute to magic that which can be adequately explained by science."

    At the risk of coming across as elitist, I must say that I think there is too big a gap between "logical" people and "illogical" people. Logical people understand the science and the math and the reasoning, and also the conclusions that come from them. Illogical people look at a helicopter in the night sky and conclude that it's an alien flying saucer.

    Logical people understand that, even if alien flying saucers exist, the odds that they'll find (or even care about) our insignificant little planet in our insignificant little solar system in our insignificant little galaxy are astronomically small. Illogical people interpret these arguments as conspiracy to hide the truth.

    Logical people understand the origins of religion, and the psychological need for religion, and the limitations of the historical record upon which religion is based. Illogical people are so afraid of "going it alone" without the comfort of knowing that there is a kind, benevolent supreme being overseeing every aspect of their lives that they cannot let go of their religious beliefs even when presented with highly compelling evidence to the contrary.

    In other words, the reason that such superstitions are beating science in the 21st Century is that there are too many people who either cannot or are afraid to understand the science.

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    — Arthur C. Clarke

    Given a choice between magic that is comforting (superstition, religion) and magic that is frightening (science, mathematics, reason), is it any wonder that people choose the former? And that they defend it to the death?

    The modern world, in which everyday life is filled with incomprehensible technology that far surpasses fantasy of only a few years ago, and in which everyday problems are so big as to appear insurmountable, is quite a frightening place. For many, it's too much to comprehend. Their only comfort is to take refuge in something that promises to be bigger and more powerful than all of the confusions and problems that they face in life, and doesn't even ask to be understood.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Edgar- I agree with your points. Religion and science are both amazingly beyond the understanding of ordinary people; therefore they are of the same character, at least to those who failed to work hard at science in school. To them, science is, indeed, incomprehensible–magic.

    People who have never taken the time to seriously study science think that amazing new gadgets just "happen." They ignore the huge interwoven intellectual and real-world infrastructure from which those gadgets sprout. Maybe that's why so many people don't give a damn about global warming. They figure that some scientist somewhere will wave a magic wand and fix it. They don't make the connection that our life-style is causing global warming and that smart government policy could, perhaps, slow down the damage by encouraging people to act smarter in comprehensible ways. Comprehensible, that is, to those who take the time to try to understand.

    Your comment reminds me of the response Richard Dawkins often gives to those who object to evolution in ignorance (I've heard Dawkins do this several times on radio interviews where listeners were invited to call in with questions). He directly advises the ignorant listeners to go to the library and pick up a good book on evolution and to study it for several weeks. Then to come back and he would be glad to discuss their objection further.

  7. Edgar Montrose says:

    And isn't in ironic that the very President who regards science with such utter disdain is also the President who claims that we don't have to worry about global climate change because he is so confident that we will find a technological solution for it?

  8. Devi says:

    Edgar's points are particularly well taken. Thanks.

    Reminds me of a little story: my father was an electronic communication genius. TV signals, radio signals, etc., all made perfect sense to him because he knew the science. One evening when I was visiting my parents, the three of us watched tv together. I remarked to my mother, "Isn't it amazing how a tv can pick up signals in the air and we get a moving picture complete with sound?" My father said it wasn't mysterious at all and immediately launched into an explanation that neither me or my mother understood. When he was finished, there was a moment of silence. Then my mother said to me, "Yes, it really is a wonder."

    People who don't accept science probably just don't understand it. The difference for some of us is that we know the science is true, even if we don't understand it, because it has been proved.

  9. grumpypilgrim says:

    "Given a choice between magic that is comforting (superstition, religion) and magic that is frightening (science, mathematics, reason), is it any wonder that people choose the former?"

    Indeed so. Nicely said, Edgar. Humans have apparently sought comfort in superstition for tens of thousands of years, and in science for only a few hundred, so perhaps it is also no surprise that the former still carries the day for so many people. "Logical" people, as a significant percentage of the population, are a relatively new phenomenon, yet look how far they have come in just an eyeblink of human history. Seen in this perspective, we have reason to be optimistic that "illogical" people might someday become as extinct as the Neanderthal…unless, of course, they manage to exterminate the entire human race before that day arrives.

  10. Dan Klarmann says:

    Logic by itself is a slippery tool. Aristotle "proved" that everything can be understood by applying logic to common sense. It was almost 2000 years later that the idea of applying logic to careful, systematic observation emerged. At this point logic sometimes led frighteningly away from what everyone knew.

    Everyone knew that the Earth stood still, that the stars were as far away as the 5 planets, that there were exactly four basic elements and 4 biological humours, that man is the unique pinnacle of creation, and that everything came fully formed from one or more creators.

    By tying logic to observation, suddenly (in the historical sense) we discovered chemistry, atomic theory, quantum theory, supra-solar astronomy, and geology. The Earth moves (quickly), there are over a hundred elements made up of dozens of particles, and these combine into thousands of molecules that all make up life, and that it is hard to tell any difference between man and beast under a microscope. Both the definition of planet and that of species are currently in flux, making it even harder to tell how many of either there are.

  11. Ben says:

    A nice site and article referred by a brilliant (or at least what I consider brilliant) netscape commenter.

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