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Mary Higby Schweitzer Mary Higby Schweitzer, Ph.D.

Paleontologist

Utah State University
Bachelor of Science – Communicative Disorders (1977)

Montana State University
Certificate, Secondary Education / Broadfield Science (1988)


Montana State University
Ph.D. – Biology (1995)

Dino Soft Tissue



Mary Higby Schweitzer was the first researcher to identify and isolate soft tissues from a 68 million year old fossil bone. The soft tissues are collagen, a connective protein. Amino acid sequencing of several samples have shown matches with the known collagens of chickens, frogs, newts and other animals. Prior to Schweitzer’s discovery, the oldest soft tissue recovered from a fossil was less than one million years old. Schweitzer has also isolated organic compounds and antigenic structures in sauropod egg shells. With respect to the significance of her work, Kevin Padian, Curator of Paleontology, University of California Museum of Paleontology, has stated "Chemicals that might degrade in a laboratory over a short period need not do so in a protected natural chemical environment…it's time to readjust our thinking."

Schweitzer first publicly announced her discovery in 1993. Since then, the claim of discovering soft tissues in a 68 million year old fossil has been disputed by some molecular biologists. Later research published in PLoS ONE (30 July 2008) challenged the claims that the material found is the soft tissue of Tyrannosaurus. The successful extraction of ancient DNA from dinosaur fossils has been reported on two separate occasions, but, upon further inspection and peer review, neither of these reports could be confirmed. The extraction of protein from dinosaur fossils has been confirmed. A more recent study (October 2010) published in PLoS ONE contradicts the conclusion of Kaye and supports Schweitzer's original conclusion.

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