“Tests Confirm T. Rex Kinship With Birds”

Just ran across this on the science section of the NY Times web site:

Tests Confirm T. Rex Kinship With Birds

The article, by science writer John Noble Wilford, reports on results from a Harvard study to be reported in the next edition of the journal Science.

In the first analysis of proteins extracted from dinosaur bones, scientists say they have established more firmly than ever that the closest living relatives of the mighty predator Tyrannosaurus rex are modern birds.

The research, being published Friday in the journal Science, yielded the first molecular data confirming the widely held hypothesis of a close dinosaur-bird ancestry, the American scientific team reported. The link was previously suggested by anatomical similarities.

This, if it bears out, it is further evidence supporting the evolutionary relationship between theropodcomparative anatomy. dinosaurs and birds that has been strongly suggested by the evidence from

The anti-dino/bird faction amongst scientists (Martin, Feduccia etc.) will no doubt claim that this is merely yet another example of the many (supposed) convergences between dinosaurs and birds. Creationists will probably deny, deny, deny.

Remember to stay tuned on this though. This is only the popular level report, the peer reviewed material is yet to be seen; and it is only the first such study. More studies, if possible, will be needed to confirm this finding.

They apparently did some similar tests on mastodon bones:

Similar molecular tests on tissues from the extinct mastodon confirmed its close genetic link to the elephant, as had been suspected from skeletal affinities.

Perhaps not terribly surprising, but still interesting nonetheless.

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8 thoughts on ““Tests Confirm T. Rex Kinship With Birds”

  1. Creationists will probably deny, deny, deny.

    Nah, creationists will leap on this as evidence for a young Earth. “Lookit lookit lookit! DNA recovered from a DINOSAUR BONE! DNA breaks down so fast, this bone MUST be young! Are you still loony enough to think dinosaurs are SIXTY-FIVE MILLION YEARS OLD?” Remember, they did the exact same thing with Horner’s earlier find of intact porphyrin fragments in another T-rex fossil.

    On a more serious note, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s familiar with the dinosaur/bird question. The article does seem more garbled than I’d expect from John Wilford, though. Maybe I missed something, but I thought most paleontologists already accepted the dinosaur-bird connection and its implications for vertebrate evolution. So I wonder what about this result led them to “redraw the vertebrate family tree.”

    — JSW

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  2. Hi Jon,

    Nah, creationists will leap on this as evidence for a young Earth. “Lookit lookit lookit! DNA recovered from a DINOSAUR BONE! DNA breaks down so fast, this bone MUST be young!

    Oh I’m sure they will do that as well. But they will also deny that this in any way supports an evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and birds. They’ll pop off with some vague nonsense about common design and pretend that it actually meant something.

    On a more serious note, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s familiar with the dinosaur/bird question.

    No, no surprise at all. It is just adding more evidence to the pile; icing on the cake if you will.

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  3. I really can’t see how this evidence resolves any “controversy” at all. The small handful of scientists who still doubt that birds are dinosaurs as a rule don’t deny that birds are closely related and like dinosaurs are archosaurs. Thus they would expect the closest matches to be either the birds or the crocodilians as they are the only living archosaurs. Of course creationism makes no predictions whatsoever and creationists will be silent that this research could have come up very bad for evolution if evolution was actually false. But of course evolution is true.

    Now what would be really neat is if they could get good sequencing data from multiple dinosaurs. That really could show beyond any doubt that dinosaurs are birds without reference to any the other voluminous evidence. I expect that sequence of a T. rex will be closer to birds than to a “duck billed” dinosaur based only on the the mainstream phylogeny: Birds are theropods, duck-bills are not.

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  4. Hmmm, I seem to remember something like this already coming out years ago. But now that I think about it, the previous research was based on the fact that T-rexes had a particular type of tissue layer near the bone or something that is only found in them and modern birds.

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  5. I was born in 1981, and as such, was completely captured by the “Dino-Hype” that raged in the late 80s and early 90s (culminating, of course, in the movie “Jurassic Park”). I was really into Dinos, and in fact, the kinda related book “World after Man” by Dougal Dixon (It had bats looking like velociraptors, for Effs sake!) was what first introduced me into the fascinating world of evolutionary theory.
    And even though I had *very* little understanding of science when I was 10 or 11 years old, for some reason I always doubted the (then) scientific consensus that Dinosaurs were cold-blooded. How could such enormous creatures even stand upright when their blood wasn’t even capable of maintaining a steady body temperature? Now granted, I don’t understand [i]that[/i] more about science thab I did when I was 11. But I still hold the opinion that most Dinosaurs are probably warm-blooded. And this protein-analysis seems to confirm my beliefs. If a T-Rex was more related to birds than it was to reptiles, than it most possibly was really a warm-blooded animal. Oh how I love being right all along! :-D

    Uuhhh… sorry for the rambling here. But ever since I was 7 years old, “Dinosaurs” was a topic that completely captures me ;-)

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  6. Bad: Hmmm, I seem to remember something like this already coming out years ago. But now that I think about it, the previous research was based on the fact that T-rexes had a particular type of tissue layer near the bone or something that is only found in them and modern birds.

    I believe you’re thinking of the discovery of bird-like medullary tissue found in a T-rex bone a few years ago.

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  7. Sebastian: sorry for the rambling here. But ever since I was 7 years old, “Dinosaurs” was a topic that completely captures me ;-)

    No need to apologize at all Sebastian. I’m a bit older than you but I have had the same fascination with dinosaurs since I was a kid.

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