Dinosaur Soft Tissue and a Young Earth

Wayne Spencer

This is a summary based on information in two short articles in the Creation Answers newsletter from December 2005 and June 2009.  I'm collecting this information together here and adding a few additional details and updates.   


   In 2005 professor Mary Schweitzer at Montana State University found unfossilized soft tissue in a leg bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This T-Rex bone was not entirely fossilized.  It was largely hollow and not filled up with minerals as would normally be expected for a dinosaur bone.  Scientists applied chemicals (EDTA) to remove the mineral content.  This is a standard procedure for removal of minerial.  This procedure would not create soft tissues of this kind.  This would normally leave nothing left, for a dinosaur fossil.  When a bone is totally fossilized the bone is replaced with mineral, a process known as permineralization.  But, in this case there was flexible connective tissue, branching blood vessels, and cells that looked like red blood cells.  There were also what looked like osteocytes, which are bone cells. Some of the structures were still transparent and elastic!  Dr. Schweitzer subjected the materials to multiple cycles of dehydration/rehydration to be sure that they were really preserving their elasticity, which they did.  Dr. Schweitzer said it was like a slice of modern bone. The creationist journal TJ (now called Journal of Creation, Vol.19, No.3, 2005, available from the creation.com website) contains a detailed paper about this find from creationists Carl Wieland and David Menton.  This was surprising to evolutionists. How could such materials survive for over 65 million years?  This made a huge stir in the scientific community.  

    Dr. Mary Schweitzer is reportedly a Christian but is not a young-age creationist.  Creationists have written about this finding from her research.  Schweitzer does not agree with young age creationists' interpretation of the significance of this.  She accepts evolution and an old age for the Earth.  But even from an evolutionary perspective it does shake things up.  There have been a couple of responses to this from the scientific community.  One has been to argue that these structures are not what they appear to be, that is, real soft tissue from dinosaurs.  That view would argue they are actually from some other effect, such as perhaps contamination from some form of bacteria or some other process that got into the fossil after it was buried.  The other response from scientists has been just to say something to the effect of "well, I guess blood cells can last millions of years in a fossil, given the right conditions." The second of these responses seems very unreasonable to me and to young age creationist scientists.  The first response does need to be considered but I think the evidence is convincing that these materials are really unfossilized soft tissue from dinosaurs.  No one can really quantify exactly how long soft material (or other organic material) can last inside a rock or fossil that's been buried.  There are many cases of other kinds of materials such as unfossilized wood being found with fossils or in rock that raise similar questions.  But tissue like blood vessels and apparently blood cells surely would be especially fragile and thus unable last tens of millions of years.

    Dr. Schweitzer continued her research and obtained even stronger similar evidence from hadrosaur bone that is thought to be about 80 million years old.  How could soft tissue, blood, and other organic soft material survive so long? The evolutionary community was initially skeptical of Schweitzer’s work.  Some challenged her to follow more stringent laboratory methods in analyzing the samples, which she did.  In 2007 the T-Rex bones yielded more soft material. Schweitzer was able to chemically isolate collagen, an important protein in bone. The collagen was compared to the collagen found in other organisms. The T-Rex collagen was found to be 58% similar to chicken and 51% similar to newt or frog. These are plausible figures for a dinosaur bone protein.  Additional work on a hadrosaur bone (believed 80 MY old) involved more careful procedures than the original work with the T-Rex bone.  Great care was taken to prevent contamination, a better mass spectrometer was used, and samples were sent to two other labs for confirmation of the results.  In the results, not only was collagen found again, but also two other proteins called elastin and laminin.  There were actually eight different types of hadrosaur collagen found, so these results are very strong. A number of amino acids were derived from the proteins examined.  Two different techniques were used to identify the collagen to be sure also. The hadrosaur collagen was more similar to the T-Rex collagen that other types of collagen, so this confirms the prior work. There were other soft materials as well though what they are may be less certain. Some materials seemed to be blood and hemoglobin. Note that even if such materials were hermetically sealed for millions of years in the natural setting, which is not likely, these proteins would decay over time due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Scientists are not really sure how long such materials can last but it defies common sense that these delicate materials would last 80 million years. Thus this points to dinosaurs living on Earth in the not so distant past, as the Bible implies.

    In 2009 a very similar thing was found that was not dinosaur tissue, but from a fossil salamander dated at 18 million years.  This was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, by a geologist from the University College, Dublin, Dr. Maria McNamara.  They stated that this fossil showed "very little degradation since it was originally fossilised … making it the highest quality soft tissue preservation ever documented in the fossil record."  This was quoted in a report by creationist Carl Weiland (CLICK to go to this).  This fossil had muscle material and blood vessels with blood in them, very well preserved.  This has the same relevance as the dinosaur tissue, though it is not believed to be as old.  Such things should bring into question the entire dating scheme that evolution depends on.

Carl Weiland article from March 2005 with photos of soft T-Rex material.  "Still Soft and Stretchy",

Carl Weiland article from May 2009 on the Hadrosaur evidence.  "Dinosaur soft tissue and protein -- even more confirmation!"

Detailed response from Carl Weiland to statements from Reasons to Believe (the ministry of Hugh Ross) and other statements from evolutionists attempting to minimize or dismiss creationists arguments on the soft tissue evidence.  "Squirming at the Squishosaur" http://creation.com/squirming-at-the-squishosaur

Excellent article on the chemical processes of fossilization of soft materials.  "Soft Tissue Fossilization"


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