On December 6th, 2013 we learned about

Iron found to be the key to preserving dinosaur collagen

How did I miss the original story here?

The find was also controversial, because scientists had thought proteins that make up soft tissue should degrade in less than 1 million years, even in the best of conditions. In most cases, microbes feast on a dead animal’s soft tissue, destroying it within weeks.

Then they find that it’s collagen. And the scope expands greatly:

The researchers also analyzed other fossils for the presence of soft tissue, and found it was present in about half of their samples going back to the Jurassic Period, which lasted from 199.6 to 145.5 million years ago, Schweitzer said.

Half their samples? Zow.

The preservative seems to be iron. But there’s a catch before we go back and look in every old fossil:

To preserve the chemistry of potential soft tissue, the specimens must not be treated with preservatives or glue, as most fossil bones are, she said. And they need to be tested quickly, as soft tissue could degrade once exposed to modern air and humidity.

Nuts. But now there’s a technique, and awareness, so future samples should be tested, right?

Source: What preserved T. rex tissue? Mystery explained at last by Stephanie Pappas, NBC News

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