Sure, we’ve been finding dinosaur bones for years — but scientists have just confirmed the first fossils from a pregnant T. Rex. The best part? It could hold the key to ultra-rare dino DNA fragments.
Jurassic Park, here we come!
According to a report from NC State University, tests conducted on the fossilized femur of a 68-million-year-old T. Rex have found a type of bone that typically only forms while laying eggs. The tests found the presence of medullary bone, which is common in female birds (and apparently dinosaurs) when they’re pregnant and giving birth. So, why is this significant? It could help us identify the genders of dinosaurs, and might even hold some baby dino DNA fragments to study.
“It’s a dirty secret, but we know next to nothing about sex-linked traits in extinct dinosaurs. Dinosaurs weren’t shy about sexual signaling, all those bells and whistles, horns, crests, and frills, and yet we just haven’t had a reliable way to tell males from females,” the study’s co-author Lindsay Zanno said. “Just being able to identify a dinosaur definitively as a female opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Now that we can show pregnant dinosaurs have a chemical fingerprint, we need a concerted effort to find more.”
The fossils were actually discovered all the way back in 2005, though it took this long for exhaustive testing to seemingly confirm it really is medullary bone, and not older bone that had been affected by osteoporosis (which can mimic the look).
Now that they know exactly what they’ve found, the research team will conduct more tests and try to determine what else we can learn from the findings. For dino researchers, these findings could be huge (no pun intended), and help fill in some of the genetic gaps.