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Still soft and stretchy

dinosaur soft tissue find—a stunning rebuttal of “millions of years”

by Dr Carl Wieland, AiG–Australia

25 March 2005

We previously announced the discovery of what seemed to be microscopic red blood cells (and immunological evidence of hemoglobin) in dinosaur bone (see Sensational dinosaur blood report! and response to critic).1 Now a further announcement, involving the same scientist (Montana State University’s Dr Mary Schweitzer2) stretches (pun intentional) the long-age paradigm beyond belief.

Not only have more blood cells been found, but also soft, fibrous tissue, and complete blood vessels. The fact that this really is unfossilized soft tissue from a dinosaur is in this instance so obvious to the naked eye that any scepticism directed at the previous discovery is completely “history”.

T Rex Soft Tissue

Science via AP
(From www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7285683/)

A: The arrow points to a tissue fragment that is still elastic.  It beggars belief that elastic tissue like this could have lasted for 65 million years.
B: Another instance of “fresh appearance” which similarly makes it hard to believe in the “millions of years”.
C: Regions of bone showing where the fibrous structure is still present, compared to most fossil bones which lack this structure.  But these bones are claimed to be 65 million years old, yet they manage to retain this structure.

One description of a portion of the tissue was that it is “flexible and resilient and when stretched returns to its original shape”.3

The exciting discovery was apparently made when researchers were forced to break open the leg bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil to lift it by helicopter. The bone was still largely hollow and not filled up with minerals as is usual. Dr Schweitzer used chemicals to dissolve the bony matrix, revealing the soft tissue still present.4

She has been cited as saying that the blood vessels were flexible, and that in some instances, one could squeeze out their contents. Furthermore, she said, “The microstructures that look like cells are preserved in every way.” She also is reported as commenting that “preservation of this extent, where you still have this flexibility and transparency, has never been seen in a dinosaur before.”

It appears that this sort of thing has not been found before mainly because it was never looked for. Schweitzer was probably alert to the possibility because of her previous serendipitous discovery of T. rex blood cells. (It appears that the fossils were sent to her to look for soft tissues, prior to preservative being applied, because of her known interest.) In fact, Schweitzer has since found similar soft tissue in several other dinosaur specimens!

CREDIT: M. H. Schweitzer


Will they now be convinced?

Unfortunately, the long-age paradigm is so dominant that facts alone will not readily overturn it. As philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn pointed out,5 what generally happens when a discovery contradicts a paradigm is that the paradigm is not discarded but modified, usually by making secondary assumptions, to accommodate the new evidence.

That’s just what appears to have happened in this case. When Schweitzer first found what appeared to be blood cells in a T. Rex specimen, she said, “It was exactly like looking at a slice of modern bone. But, of course, I couldn’t believe it. I said to the lab technician: “The bones, after all, are 65 million years old. How could blood cells survive that long?’”6 Notice that her first reaction was to question the evidence, not the paradigm. That is in a way quite understandable and human, and is how science works in reality (though when creationists do that, it’s caricatured as non-scientific).

So will this new evidence cause anyone to stand up and say there’s something funny about the emperor’s clothes? Not likely. Instead, it will almost certainly become an “accepted” phenomenon that even “stretchy” soft tissues must be somehow capable of surviving for millions of years. (Because, after all, we “know” that this specimen is “70 million years old”.) See how it works?

Schweitzer’s mentor, the famous “Dinosaur Jack” Horner (upon whom Sam Neill’s lead character in the Jurassic Park movies was modeled) is already urging museums to consider cracking open some of the bones in their existing dinosaur fossils in the hope of finding more such “Squishosaurus” remains. He is excited about the potential to learn more about dinosaurs, of course. But—nothing about questioning the millions of years—sigh!

I invite the reader to step back and contemplate the obvious. This discovery gives immensely powerful support to the proposition that dinosaur fossils are not millions of years old at all, but were mostly fossilized under catastrophic conditions a few thousand years ago at most.7

NC State scientist finds soft tissue in T. rex bones

Contact: Tracey Peake
tracey_peake@ncsu.edu
9190515-3470
North Carolina State University

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-03/ncsu-nss032405.php retrieved October 6, 2006

Conventional wisdom among paleontologists states that when dinosaurs died and became fossilized, soft tissues didn’t preserve – the bones were essentially transformed into “rocks” through a gradual replacement of all organic material by minerals. New research by a North Carolina State University paleontologist, however, could literally turn that theory inside out.

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, assistant professor of paleontology with a joint appointment at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, has succeeded in isolating soft tissue from the femur of a 68-million-year-old dinosaur. Not only is the tissue largely intact, it’s still transparent and pliable, and microscopic interior structures resembling blood vessels and even cells are still present.

In a paper published in the March 25 edition of the journal Science, Schweitzer describes the process by which she and her technician, Jennifer Wittmeyer, isolated soft organic tissue from the leg bone of a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex.

Schweitzer was interested in studying the microstructure and organic components of a dinosaur’s bone. All bone is made up of a combination of protein (and other organic molecules) and minerals. In modern bone, removing the minerals leaves supple, soft organic materials that are much easier to work with in a lab. In contrast, fossilized bone is believed to be completely mineralized, meaning no organics are present. Attempting to dissolve the minerals from a piece of fossilized bone, so the theory goes, would merely dissolve the entire fossil.

But the team was surprised by what actually happened when they removed the minerals from the T. rex femur fragment. The removal process left behind stretchy bone matrix material that, when examined microscopically, seemed to show blood vessels, osteocytes, or bone building cells, and other recognizable organic features.

Since current data indicates that living birds are more closely related to dinosaurs than any other group, Schweitzer compared the findings from the T. rex with structures found in modern-day ostriches. In both samples, transparent branching blood vessels were present, and many of the small microstructures present in the T. rex sample displayed the same appearance as the blood and bone cells from the ostrich sample.

Schweitzer then duplicated her findings with at least three other well-preserved dinosaur specimens, one 80-million-year-old hadrosaur and two 65-million-year-old tyrannosaurs. All of these specimens preserved vessels, cell-like structures, or flexible matrix that resembled bone collagen from modern specimens.

Current theories about fossil preservation hold that organic molecules should not preserve beyond 100,000 years. Schweitzer hopes that further research will reveal exactly what the soft structures isolated from these bones are made of. Do they consist of the original cells, and if so, do the cells still contain genetic information? Her early studies of the material suggest that at least some fragments of the dinosaurs’ original molecular material may still be present.

“We may not really know as much about how fossils are preserved as we think,” says Schweitzer. “Our preliminary research shows that antibodies that recognize collagen react to chemical extracts of this fossil bone. If further studies confirm this, we may have the potential to learn more not only about the dinosaurs themselves, but also about how and why they were preserved in the first place.”

The research was funded by NC State, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

Note to editors: An abstract of the paper follows.

“Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex”
Authors: Mary H. Schweitzer and Jennifer L. Wittmeyer, North Carolina State University; John R. Horner, Montana State University; Jan B. Toporski, Carnegie Institution of Washington Geophysical Laboratory Published: March 25, 2005, in Science

Abstract: Soft tissues are preserved within hindlimb elements of Tyrannosaurus rex (Museum of the Rockies specimen 1125). Removal of the mineral phase reveals transparent, flexible, hollow blood vessels containing small round microstructures that can be expressed from the vessels into solution. Some regions of the demineralized bone matrix are highly fibrous, and the matrix possesses elasticity and resilience. Three populations of microstructures have cell-like morphology. Thus, some dinosaurian soft tissues may retain some of their original flexibility, elasticity and resilience.


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