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Friday, March 25, 2005; Page C12

Scientists Shake a Leg With T. Rex, Octopuses

• Two cool items today from the journal Science: a surprise inside a T. rex bone and moonwalking octopuses.

First, the T. rex: Usually only the hard parts of an animal, such as bone, keep for a long time. But scientists discovered some well-preserved soft tissue inside the fossilized thigh bone of a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex recently found in Montana.

Tropical octopuses walk away from trouble. (Courtesy Roy Caldwell -- University Of California At Berkeley)

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Normally, soft tissue loses its shape and structure after a few million years. In this case, however, the tissue was found to be threaded with blood vessels and small dots thought to be cells. The blood vessels are similar to those in ostriches, another indication that modern birds descended from dinosaurs, scientists said.

Now, the octopus news: Two species of tropical octopus have developed a neat trick to avoid predators. They lift up six of their arms and walk backward on the other two, using them like tank treads.

Researchers believe this behavior allows the octopus to move slowly away from harm while remaining camouflaged. If octopuses have to move quickly, they lose their protective camouflage.

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