180 Million Year Old Soft Tissue?

On December 5, the well-known science journal Nature published an amazing article entitled, “Soft-tissue evidence for homeothermy and crypsis in a Jurassic ichthyosaur” (Link). One of the 22 co-authors is Mary Schweitzer, whose earlier papers (starting in 2005) on well-preserved dinosaur soft-tissue remains shocked the scientific community who had long thought and claimed this to be an impossibility.  This is because it was previously thought impossible for original soft tissues, proteins, and DNA fragments to survive beyond a few tens of thousands of years at most – even under ideal conditions.  That was until Schweitzer demonstrated that actual incontrovertible existence of original dinosaur soft tissues, proteins, and even fragments of original DNA in well-preserved dinosaur bones dating some 65 million years old by conventional radiometric dating methods.

Yet, this finding flew in the face of the apparently well-established science of rapid soft tissue, protein, and DNA decay rates supported by kinetic chemistry experiments (Link). Schweitzer proposed the possibility of enhanced preservation of these soft tissues via a kind of iron-assisted protein-cross linking similar to how formaldehyde preserves embalmed soft tissues today (Link).  Beyond the fact that many of the preserved soft tissues found in various dinosaur specimens since Schweitzer’s original discovery would have had no significant exposure to iron or oxy radicals, the degree of enhanced preservation provided by this method would not come remotely close to allowing for even a million years of soft tissue preservation, much less tens of millions of years (Link).

Now, add to this situation the current case of the fossil ichthyosaur which was recently found in Germany – with remarkably preserved skin and blubber:

Schweitzer and NC State research assistant Wenxia Zheng extracted soft tissues from the samples and performed multiple, high-resolution immunohistochemical analyses. “We developed a panel of antibodies that we applied to all of the samples, and saw differential binding, meaning the antibodies for a particular protein – like keratin or hemoglobin – only bound to particular areas,” Schweitzer says. “This demonstrates the specificity of these antibodies and is strong evidence that different proteins persist in different tissues. You wouldn’t expect to find keratin in the liver, for example, but you would expect hemoglobin. And that’s what we saw in the responses of these samples to different antibodies and other chemical tools.” (Link)

If it is difficult if not impossible to imagine how soft tissues and antigenically-intact proteins could survive some 65 million years at ambient temperatures, how about 180 million years?  How is this conclusion remotely tenable given the evidence in hand for the rapid decay of such soft tissues at ambient temperatures? This is not to mention the previously discovered 505–million-year-old chitin, found in exceptionally well preserved Vauxia gracilenta sponges from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale (Ehrlich, 2013) – still with significant quantities of non-contaminant radiocarbon within these tissues (Thomas, 2015). Such findings support an age of less than 60 kyrs, but are generally ignored by the scientific community who cannot accept that these remains are actually so young.

The ichthyosaur paper’s “Supplemental Information” shows a piece of soft tissue from this particular ichthyosaur “fossil” that is still stretchy and flexible (Video 2) – even though it is much older than Schweitzer’s famous B. rex sample or the well-known Triceratops horn sample. The continued description of the extremely ancient ages of these soft tissue remains by mainstream scientists, in the many tens of millions of years, strains one’s credulity to the breaking point…

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