Neatly dressed in blue Capri pants and a sleeveless top, long hair flowing over her bare shoulders, Mary Schweitzer sits at a microscope in a dim lab, her face lit only by a glowing computer Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating showing a network of thin, branching vessels. It was big news indeed last year when Schweitzer announced she had discovered blood vessels and structures that looked like whole cells inside that T. The finding amazed colleagues, who had never imagined that even a trace of still-soft dinosaur tissue could survive.
After all, Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating any textbook will tell you, when an animal dies, soft tissues such as blood vessels, muscle and skin decay and disappear over time, while hard tissues like bone may gradually acquire minerals from the environment and become fossils. Schweitzer, one of the first scientists to use the tools of modern cell biology to study dinosaurs, has upended the conventional wisdom by showing that some rock-hard fossils tens of millions of years old may have remnants of soft tissues hidden away in their interiors.
And the new findings might help settle a long-running debate about whether dinosaurs were warmblooded, coldblooded—or both. They claim her discoveries support their belief, based on their interpretation of Genesis, that the earth is only a few thousand years old.
Growing up in Helena, Montana, she went through a phase when, like many kids, she was fascinated by dinosaurs. In fact, at age 5 she announced she was going to be a paleontologist.
But first she got a college degree in communicative Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating, married, had three children and briefly taught remedial biology to high schoolers. Ina dozen years after she graduated from college, she sat in on a class at Montana State University taught by paleontologist Jack Horner, of the Museum of the Rockies, now an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
The lectures reignited her passion for dinosaurs. She initially thought she would study how the microscopic structure of dinosaur bones differs depending on how much the animal weighs.
But then came the incident with the red spots. InSchweitzer was trying to study thin slices of bones from a million-year-old T. She was having a hard time getting the slices to stick to a glass slide, so she sought help from a molecular at the university. The biologist, Gayle Callis, happened to take the slides to a veterinary conference, where she set up the ancient samples for others to look at.
He thought it was possible they were red blood cells, but he gave her some advice: What she found instead was evidence of heme in the bones—additional support Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating the idea that they were red blood cells. Heme is a part of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in the blood and gives red blood cells their color. If particles of that one dinosaur were able to hang around for 65 million years, maybe the textbooks were wrong about fossilization.
Schweitzer tends to be self-deprecating, claiming to be hopeless at computers, lab work and talking to strangers. And asking unusual questions took a lot of nerve. Schweitzer takes risks, says Karen Chin, a University of Colorado paleontologist. InBob Harmon, a field crew chief from the Museum of the Rockies, was eating his lunch in a remote Montana canyon when he looked up and saw a bone sticking out of a rock wall.
That bone turned out to be part of what may be the best preserved T.
Over the next three summers, workers chipped away at the dinosaur, gradually removing it from the cliff face. They called it B. In Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating, they encased a section of the dinosaur and the surrounding dirt in plaster to protect it. It turned out Bob had been misnamed. On the hollow inside surface of the femur, Schweitzer had found scraps of bone that Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating a surprising amount of information about the dinosaur that made them.
Pregnant women use calcium from their bones to build the skeleton of a developing fetus. Before female birds start to lay eggs, they form a calcium-rich structure called medullary bone on the inside of their leg and other bones; they draw on it during the breeding season to make eggshells. In fact, they say that birds are dinosaurs—colorful, incredibly diverse, cute little feathered dinosaurs. "Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating" theropod of the Jurassic forests lives on in the goldfinch visiting the backyard feeder, the toucans of the tropics and the ostriches loping across the African savanna.
To understand her dinosaur bone, Schweitzer turned to two of the most primitive living birds: In the summer ofshe asked several ostrich breeders for female bones.
A farmer called, months later. Schweitzer and two colleagues collected a leg from the fragrant carcass and drove it back to Raleigh. As far as anyone can tell, Schweitzer was right: Bob the dinosaur really did have a store of medullary bone when she died. A paper published in Science last June presents microscope pictures of medullary bone from ostrich and emu side by side with dinosaur bone, showing near-identical features. In the course of testing a B.
One Friday night in JanuaryWittmeyer was in the lab as usual. She took out a fossil chip that had been in the acid for three days and put it under the microscope to take a picture. She used forceps to flatten it. I was like, stop it! Suddenly Schweitzer and Wittmeyer were dealing with something no one else had ever seen. For a couple of weeks, Wittmeyer said, it was like Christmas every day.
In the lab, Wittmeyer now takes out a dish with six compartments, each holding a little brown dab of tissue in clear liquid, and puts it under the microscope lens.
Inside each specimen is a fine network of almost-clear branching vessels—the tissue of a female Tyrannosaurus rex that strode through the forests 68 million years ago, preparing to lay eggs. Close up, the blood vessels from that T. Of course, what everyone wants to know is whether DNA might be lurking in that tissue.
But DNA, which carries the genetic script for an animal, is a very fragile molecule. Instead, Schweitzer has been testing her dinosaur tissue samples for proteins, which are a bit hardier and more readily distinguished from contaminants. Collagen makes up much of the bone scaffolding, elastin is wrapped around blood vessels and hemoglobin carries oxygen inside red blood cells. Because the chemical makeup of proteins changes through evolution, scientists can study protein sequences to learn more Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating how dinosaurs evolved.
And because proteins do all the work in the body, studying them could someday help scientists understand dinosaur physiology—how their muscles and blood vessels worked, for example. Proteins are much too tiny to pick out with a microscope. To look for them, Schweitzer uses antibodies, immune system molecules that recognize and bind to specific sections of proteins.
Schweitzer and Wittmeyer have been using antibodies to chicken collagen, cow elastin and ostrich hemoglobin to search for similar molecules in the dinosaur tissue. At an October paleontology conference, Schweitzer presented preliminary evidence that she has detected real dinosaur proteins in her specimens.
Further discoveries in the past year have shown that the discovery of soft tissue in B. Schweitzer and Wittmeyer have now found probable blood vessels, bone-building cells and connective "Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating" in another T. This drives Schweitzer crazy.
Geologists have established that the Hell Creek Formation, where B. After all, she says, what God asks is faith, not evidence.
Astrobiology is one of the wackier branches of biology, dealing in life that might or might not exist and might or might not take any recognizable form. Her NASA research involves using antibodies to probe for signs of life in unexpected places.
I really want to know about my dinosaurs. To that purpose, Schweitzer, with Wittmeyer, spends hours in front of microscopes in dark rooms. To a fourth-generation Montanan, even the relatively laid-back Raleigh area is a big city. She reminisces wistfully about scouting for field sites on horseback in Montana.
You could call it the price she pays for not being typical. Subscribe or Give a Gift. Who is the New Jamestown Skeleton? Science Age of "Christianity and dinosaurs carbon dating." The Art of Secrets and Surveillance.
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