The discovery of collagen in ancient fossils by researchers could prove to be a major breakthrough in exploring an evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds.
The study, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, used the unexpected discovery of collagen in dinosaur fossils to make its link between living and extinct species.
"It's extremely surprising that you have all this organic content after all this time," John Asara, a Harvard Medical School researcher said.
By using a sophisticated technique called mass spectroscopy, Asara and his team were able to obtain genetic information from dinosaurs that had been preserved for millions of years, linking them to species that currently inhabit the planet.
It also brings to mind the sort of possibilities explored in the science fiction book and film "Jurassic Park. Really, most of the ideas in 'Jurassic Park' are, I think, improbable -- but I don't think I'm willing to say impossible anymore," said Dr. Philip Currie, a paleontologist based at the University of Alberta.
Researchers say the discovery helps them link dinosaurs to a much smaller animal currently walking the earth.
"We have a protein sequence that we can compare to the protein sequence of other organisms that have had their genome. It looks like chicken may be its closest relative," Asara said. "But we also found matches to newt, and also to frog. So you can really start to make this evolutionary relationship."