T-Rex linked to birds: Study

April 25th, 2008 - 5:47 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 25 (IANS) The fearsome T-Rex sharing a common ancestry with something as tiny and timid as chickens would have been laughed out of hand. But the latest evidence, based on molecular analysis of a shred of 68 million-year T-Rex protein, bears out its close kinship with the modern-day bird.

The work represents the first use of molecular data to place a non-avian dinosaur in a phylogenetic (evolutionary) tree that traces the evolution of species.

The scientists also report that similar analysis of 160,000 to 600,000-year-old collagen protein sequences derived from mastodon bone establishes a close evolutionary relationship between that extinct species and modern elephants.

“These results match predictions made from skeletal anatomy, providing the first molecular evidence for the evolutionary relationships of a non-avian dinosaur,” said co-author Chris Organ, of Harvard University.

For the current work, Organ and John Asara and their colleagues used sophisticated algorithms to compare collagen protein from several dozen species. The goal: placing T-Rex on the animal kingdom’s family tree using molecular evidence.

“We determined that T-Rex, in fact, grouped with birds - ostrich and chicken - better than any other organism that we studied. We also show that it groups better with birds than modern reptiles, such as alligators and green anole lizards, said Asara.”

The scraps of dinosaur protein were wrested from a fossil femur discovered in 2003 by John Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in a barren fossil-rich stretch of land that spans Wyoming and Montana.

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