WBEZ | Tyrannosaurus Rex http://www.wbez.org/tags/tyrannosaurus-rex Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Clever Apes #27: Breaking the fossil record http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-03-08/clever-apes-27-breaking-fossil-record-96971 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-07/Orgel2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Joseph Orgel holds his sample of T. rex tissue. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)" class="caption" height="450" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-07/Orgel2.JPG" title="Joseph Orgel holds his sample of T. rex tissue. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)" width="600"></p><p>Dinosaurs loom large in our imaginations not just because they were in fact enormous, but also they are so ridiculously old. There has always been a big, impenetrable curtain separating us from prehistoric life. Sure, we have some ancient bones, but those had long since turned to stone. Any actual tissue, the stuff of flesh-and-blood creatures, is irrevocably lost, lasting only a few tens of thousands of years in most cases. Maybe a few stray organic molecules could persist for a few million if, say, they were frozen deep within primeval ice.</p><p>So, needless to say, it came as something of a shock when Mary Schweitzer <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/307/5717/1952.abstract">discovered that she had some 68-million-year-old dinosaur tissue </a>on her hands.</p><p><img alt="Researchers at Argonne lab use tricycles to get around the Advanced Photon Sourc" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-05/Orgel trike.jpg" style="margin: 10px; width: 350px; float: right; height: 267px;" title="Researchers at Argonne lab use tricycles to get around the Advanced Photon Source. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)">The find was and is controversial. <a href="http://genome.fieldofscience.com/2009/06/dinosaur-proteins-from-t-rex-and.html">Many scientists are skeptical or outright dismissive </a>of the idea that tissue could have persisted inside the partially fossilized thigh bone of a T. rex. But since then Schweitzer and her collaborators have gradually built up evidence that the find is real. And most recently, <a href="http://www.iit.edu/csl/bio/faculty/orgel_joseph.shtml">Joseph Orgel of the Illinois Institute of Technology </a>has begun to understand how mummified dino-flesh could possibly have survived a thousand times longer than was thought possible.</p><p>Orgel used <a href="http://aps.anl.gov/">x-ray diffraction</a>, a kind of molecular imaging technique, to understand how the dinosaur tissue is structured in detail. The particular stuff they have in hand is collagen, a material found in our bones, tendons, blood vessels and skin. It is itself a hardy molecule, and Orgel found that the protein sequences preserved in their fossils came from the innermost, protected part of the collagen fiber. So it’s possible that <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0020381">collagen’s tough, ropelike structure preserved a tender bit of dinosaur jerky inside.</a></p><p>Keep in mind, this is not DNA. We will not be cloning Barney from this stuff. But understanding how these proteins can be shielded from decay for so long could hold practical lessons for modern medicine. If you’re repairing, say, a bone or cartilage, you might be able to leverage or mimic nature’s ability to make durable organic materials that don’t degrade, in effect, forever.<img alt="Phillip Messersmith designed a medical glue based on the blue mussel's natural a" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-05/Messersmith.jpg" style="margin: 10px; width: 250px; float: left; height: 333px;" title="Phillip Messersmith designed a medical glue based on the blue mussel's natural adhesive. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)"></p><p>Also in today’s episode, we consider another example of design inspired by biology. <a href="http://biomaterials.bme.northwestern.edu/mussel.asp">Dr. Phillip Messersmith’s muse is the blue mussel </a>– a bivalve that secretes a unique adhesive to stick itself to rocks or boat hulls or wherever it feels like sticking. (They form their connective threads and tacky pads through a kind of shellfish injection-molding process. The video below, provided by the Messersmith lab, captures an amazing example.) This stuff turns out to have some key qualities that a surgeon would envy. It starts as a liquid and solidifies quickly, it functions well under water and it’s sticky as hell.</p><p>That’s a big advantage over the medical glues out there that doctors use to attach or repair tissues. The safest ones are too weak. The strongest ones (basically, super glue) are toxic. <a href="http://biomaterials.bme.northwestern.edu/">Messersmith and his lab-mates at Northwestern University </a>are using the fundamentals of the mussel glue to design their own version, which they demonstrated for us on some sausage casing.</p><p>So someday, maybe they’ll be able to install a dino-inspired bone patch in your body, and lock it down with some mussel glue. Until then, don’t forget to subscribe to our <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="451" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/38034455?color=ff0179" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 07 Mar 2012 16:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-03-08/clever-apes-27-breaking-fossil-record-96971 Clever Apes: Top 5 dinosaur myths http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-03-31/clever-apes-top-5-dinosaur-myths-84500 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-30/Sinclair dino world.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The latest Clever Apes is all about demystifying dinosaurs, and why it seems to be taking popular culture so long to catch up with the science. So, with apologies for spoiling your childhood idylls, here are Clever Apes’ Top 5 Dinosaur Myths:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" height="322" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-30/Sinclair dino world.jpg" title="" width="500"></p><p><strong>1) Brontosaurus</strong></p><p>We hope you know about this one by now, but <a href="http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/herbivorousdinosaurs/p/apatosaurus.htm">brontosaurus is no longer with us</a>. I don’t mean as in extinct – I mean as in never around to begin with. Brontosaurus was kind of a Frankenstein, born of the vagaries of field work. Back in the late 19th Century, Othinel Charles Marsh was in an all-out war with other fossil hunters over who could find the most new dinosaurs. In his haste he “discovered” and named two dinosaurs: first apatosaurus, then brontosaurus. Turns out they were the same dinosaur, just different ages. Furthermore, brontosaurus was missing a head (as long-dead dinosaurs often are), so Marsh kindly gave him one. Only problem was it was the head of a totally different dinosaur, camarasaurus.</p><p>Anyway, the myth is widespread enough that the U. S. Postal Service still put brontosaurus in <a href="http://www.search4dinosaurs.com/postage_stamps/UnitedStates_Dinosaurs_Prehistoric_Animals_Postage_Stamps.html">a set of “dinosaur” stamps</a> in 1989. They also added the pterodon, which, of course, is no dinosaur at all.</p><p><strong>2) Triceratops (sort of)</strong></p><p>Another field mix-up – at least, maybe. Last year paleo-celebrity <a href="http://www.museumoftherockies.org/Home/EXPLORE/Dinosaurs/PeopleinPaleo/JackHorner/tabid/389/Default.aspx">Jack Horner</a> of the Museum of the Rockies co-wrote a paper suggesting that <a href="http://ayl.lv/Z4g">triceratops was likely actually a younger version of another dinosaur, the torosaurus</a>. Many dinosaurs, it turns out, went through <a href="http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/dinosaur/2010/07/new-study-says-torosaurustriceratops/">major skeletal changes over the course of their lives</a>, confusing paleontologists and toddlers the world over. I suppose next they’ll be telling us that piatnitzkysaurus was just a juvenile gorgonops, right? Am I right? OK, just went overboard off the dork boat. Pull it together, Spitzer.</p><p>Anyway, when comic <a href="http://dantelfer.blogspot.com">Dan Telfer</a> made reference to the dubious triceratops on the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/dinos"> last Clever Apes</a>, we swiftly received anguished tweets from <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/etsysockmonkey">@etsysockmonkey</a>, declaring that we’d made her cry and ruined her life. Well, I hate to break it to you, but it turns out the sock monkey is just a juvenile version of the stuffed monchhichi.</p><p><a href="http://fieldmuseum.org/users/lindsay-zanno">Lindsay Zanno</a> of the Field Museum adds another note of comfort: Even though Horner suggests triceratoips and torosaurus are the same species, triceratops was named first, so it wins. Also, she says, it may all turn out to be hooey.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>3) T. Rex stood tall</strong></p><p>The <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/eyetwist/321326827/">iconic image</a> of the T. Rex is of the mighty predator looming large, back upright, puny arm-twigs raised in menacing fashion. I suppose that seemed more imposing than the hunched-over thing we now know it to be. As paleontologist Paul Sereno explains, the T. Rex was much more bird than kangaroo (or dragon, for that matter). Most serious museums get this right now, but I can tell you from personal experience: the chintzy plastic-toy manufacturers have yet to catch up.</p><p><strong>4) Stegosaurus had two brains</strong></p><p>The idea that dinosaurs had brains the size of a walnut is itself something of a myth, but it appears to be true in the case of the stegosaurus. To compensate, scientists used to suggest the steg had a second brain near its tail – an “ass-brain,” as Dan Telfer put it. The notion came from a suspicious cavity in its spinal column, and the fact that paleontologists couldn’t imagine how the 30-foot long beast could function with a strawberry in its noggin.</p><p>But in the last few decades, the <a href="http://www.jstor.org/pss/2400969">second-brain theory has fallen out of favor</a>. Instead, that cavity may have housed a little starch factory, similar to what modern-day birds have.</p><p><strong>5) T-Rex and Stegosaurus tussled with each other</strong></p><p>Hate to say it, but these two did not cross paths. All the cartoons and coloring books seem to want to throw all the dinosaurs together at the same time. But the <a href="http://lastdaysoftheincas.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/dinosaur-timeline.jpg">Mesozoic&nbsp;dinosaur era lasted about 165 million years</a>, and during that time lots of dinosaurs came and went. The tyrannosaurus and the stegosaurus missed each other by about 80 million years.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>6) (Special BONUS myth) Dinosaurs are extinct&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Wrong! Sucker! The Field Museum's Zanno says, technically, <a href="http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/avians.html">birds are living dinosaurs</a>. So we are still in the dinosaur era. Dinophiles, rejoice!</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 31 Mar 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-03-31/clever-apes-top-5-dinosaur-myths-84500 Clever Apes #9: Demystifying dinosaurs http://www.wbez.org/dinos <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-29/P1000075.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Paleontologist Paul Sereno in his fossil lab at the University of Chicago. " class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-29/Sereno.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 300px; " title="Paleontologist Paul Sereno in his fossil lab at the University of Chicago. "></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Brontosaurus? A sham. Triceratops? Awkward adolescent. Tyrannosaurus Rex? A total wuss. OK, maybe T-Rex was no wuss, but it definitely lacked dignity. It walked all bent over, may have been an<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3112527.stm"> opportunistic scavenger</a> and possibly even <a href="http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/dinosaurs/diorama/tyrant.php">had feathers</a>. Feathers.</p><p>There’s no question: The dinosaurs of our youth have been irrevocably humbled. And yet movies, kids’ books and advertisements still perpetuate all kinds of misconceptions about dinosaurs that scientists long ago left behind. So why is it that dinosaur myths die so hard?</p><p>We consider that question in the latest installment of Clever Apes. Eminent Paleontologist <a href="http://www.paulsereno.org/paulsereno/">Paul Sereno</a> joins us talk about which dinosaur myths bug him, and why they might not all be bad. We’ll also sort out, thanks to Chicago comic Dan Telfer, which is the best dinosaur. Oh yes, there’s an answer.</p><p><strong><sub>Listen to the latest installment:</sub></strong><br> <audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483426-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Clever_Apes_Demystifying_Dinosaurs.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>Dan, as you’ll discover, is a dinosaur maven. Check out <a href="http://dantelfer.blogspot.com/">his web site</a> and his CD, <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fossil-record/id374980119">Fossil Record</a>. Also, watch this space later this week for the special extended-cut, rated-PG-13 video of Dan’s performance, and a behind-the-scenes interview.</p><p>As always, subscribe to the Clever Apes&nbsp;<a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast" style="text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" style="text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, or find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" style="text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 29 Mar 2011 21:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/dinos