June 10, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Dino Soft Tissue Confirms Creationist Prediction

Gleanings from the original paper show discoverers excited but surprised. Creationists are excited and gratified.

Yesterday’s announcement of dinosaur soft tissue in Nature Communications by scientists from Imperial College London sets a new high hurdle for critics. It’s not really news, since soft tissue in dinosaur bones has been reported for over a decade now (see Bob Enyart’s list of journal papers).  This new paper, however, is noteworthy in many respects that will challenge naysayers:

  1. The team used ordinary, common bones from museum specimens. “Models proposed to account for such preservation indicate that it should be the exception rather than the rule,” they noted. “….Here, we examined eight dinosaur bones from the Cretaceous period, none of which are exceptionally preserved.
  2. The outside of the bones gave no hint of what was inside. “Incredibly, none of the samples showed external indicators of exceptional preservation and this strongly suggests that the preservation of soft tissues and even proteins is a more common phenomenon than previously accepted.”
  3. The bones they sampled came from both major classes of dinosaurs. “Specimens representing both major dinosaurian clades (Ornithischia [bird-hipped] and Saurischia [lizard-hipped]) and different osteological elements were chosen.”
  4. The bones came from different parts of the anatomy. “…an ungual claw of an indeterminate theropod dinosaur…”, “… a hadrosaurid tibia,” “an astragalus of a hadrosaurid” and others.
  5. The team took great pains to prevent contamination. “The sections were obtained from the interior of each sample, ruling out modern surface contamination.” Again, “this method rules out the possibility of modern contamination, as the surface exposed is inaccessible to any contaminant.”
  6. The team used multiple methods for observation: SEM, TEM, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and focused ion beam (FIB) mass spectrometry.  “These results show that to determine the presence of soft tissue in fossils a new synergistic approach needs to be applied where micro/nano-analytical methods are utilized to their full potential.”
  7. They used controls by running the same tests with rabbit bone, another bone lacking the fibers, emu blood and a copper grid. “Sections were obtained from an agglomeration of erythrocyte-like structures and cement surrounding these from specimen NHMUK R12562, fixed emu blood, three fossils showing calcified fibres (NHMUK R4493, NHMUK R4249, NHMUK R4864), rabbit bone and a fossil not presenting sign of calcified fibres (NHMUK R12562). As a control, a mass spectrum from the copper grid holding the samples was also obtained.”
  8. Six of the eight samples contained soft tissue. “….in this study, putative soft tissue (either erythrocyte-like structures, collagen-like, fibrous structures or amorphous carbon-rich structures (Supplementary Fig. 7)) was observed in six of our eight dinosaur specimens (Supplementary Table 1).”
  9. Two distinct kinds of soft tissue were reported: collagen and red blood cells. “In one sample, we observe structures consistent with endogenous collagen fibre remains …. Furthermore, we observe structures consistent with putative erythrocyte remains that exhibit mass spectra similar to emu whole blood.”
  10. The collagen structure had not degraded; it still displayed the quaternary structure characteristic of collagen’s triple-helix configuration. “One sample (NHMUK R4493) also showed, for the first time in a dinosaur bone, a clear ~67 nm banding, that is typical of the banding observed in collagen (Fig. 3e), for the length of the preserved fibre.” The fibers are obvious from the electron micrographs shown in the paper and the popular news.
  11. Amino acids were detected that are characteristic of collagen: “The positive mass spectrum obtained from NHMUK R4493 showed peaks corresponding to fragments of the amino acids glycine, alanine, proline and others…. Detection of fragments of the amino acids normally found in collagen supports the results obtained from TEM analysis where the ~67 nm banding is consistent with potential preservation of the original quaternary structure of the protein.”
  12. Blood cells were found. Though shrunken in size, this confirms Schweitzer’s original claim of finding blood cells. “The spectra obtained from four different regions of the dinosaur bone containing erythrocyte-like structures are surprisingly similar to the spectra obtained from emu blood.” Why would the dinosaur cells be smaller? “Within the dinosaur samples on average, the erythrocyte-like structures are ~2 μm in length. This is somewhat smaller than erythrocytes of birds, which range from 9 to 15 μm in length; emu blood cells in our sample were 9±2 μm (n=17). The structures consistent with putative erythrocytes in the fossil could well have been deformed and it is quite probable that these structures have undergone some shrinkage during fossilization.”

Another standout feature of this paper is the undercurrent of emotion. Scientific papers tend to be stodgy and understated in tone. These scientists used “exciting” twice, and a scattering of other “surprise” words:

  1. Therefore, the observation of a ~67-nm banding in the fibrous structures of fossilized samples here is very exciting, as it is consistent with a preservation of the ultrastructure of putative collagen fibres over a time period of 75 million years. Before this finding, the oldest undegraded collagen recorded (based on mass spectrometry sequencing and peptide fingerprinting) was about 4 million years old.
  2. The common preservation of soft tissues could pave the way for cellular investigations of extinct animals, shedding light on aspects of physiology and behaviour that have been previously inaccessible to palaeontologists and inaugurating a new and exciting way to do paleontology.
  3. Unexpectedly, from three of the samples (NHMUK R4493, NHMUK R4249 and NHMUK R4243) TEM micrographs showed obvious fibrous structures (Fig. 3a,b,c and Supplementary Fig. 10) containing carbon.
  4. The spectra obtained from the erythrocyte-like structures are surprisingly similar to the spectra obtained from the whole blood of an extant emu.

The paper is timely, seeing that the latest dinosaur movie “Jurassic World” hits the theaters in two days. Reporters, so far, are sticking to their story that the evidence merely demonstrates that soft tissue can last for 75 million years.  This estimate, however, is about 18 times longer than the previous “expert” opinion about the longevity of collagen, especially in its quaternary structure. Can this giant leap be simply assumed? Four million years was already a stretch for many who said soft tissue degrades quickly after death. Moreover, they thought it could only be preserved for 4my under exceptional conditions of preservation—not on common bones in museum collections.

Another noteworthy discovery from the current paper is “structures enriched in carbon.” They write, “Elemental analysis using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) established that all these structures are enriched in carbon, in contrast with the surrounding denser tissue/cement.” This raises the possibility of running carbon-14 tests on the samples. None of the authors or reporters mentioned this rather obvious follow-up step. If the bones were older than about 100,000 years, there should be no carbon-14 at all remaining, due to its 5,730-year half-life.

Bob Enyart discusses this paper with CEH editor David Coppedge in a special edition of his radio show today (June 10).

Bob Enyart keeps a list of objects containing carbon-14 that should have none, such as coal, diamonds and other “dinosaur-era” fossils. A few years ago, he spoke with famous dinosaur hunter Jack Horner, who was the inspiration for the scientist in Jurassic Park, and consultant on all the Spielberg dinosaur movies. When Enyart offered him $23,000 to carbon-date the soft tissue in his T. rex, he refused the generous grant and donation to his museum. Recognizing that Enyart is a creationist, he revealed his real reason: “The spin you guys could get out of this,” he admitted, “would not help us.” But it isn’t spin! It’s a scientific test. Who is interested in facts as opposed to spin? You can hear the whole conversation here.

The world’s leading scientists are less scientific than this pastor in Denver. Enyart keeps lists of predictions by creation scientists, many of which have been confirmed. This paper now confirms #2 of his dinosaur soft tissue predictions: “For now, dinosaur tissue will be found not only in rare circumstances, but rather easily, i.e., when looked for.” Prediction confirmed! He was spot on. Did the secular evolutionists predict this? No! They were totally surprised (see the reactions in yesterday’s post). His lists also show that DNA from dinosaurs has already been found, contrary to what the reporters on the current story are saying.

Sooner or later, someone will do a carbon-14 test on dinosaur soft tissue. If there is any C-14 found at all, it will defeat the geologic column with its “Age of dinosaurs” ending millions of years ago. Don’t be alarmed if the age comes out to tens or hundreds of thousands of years, because the error bars go out of control beyond dates that can be checked against recorded history, and creationists expect different atmospheric conditions in the pre-Flood world. The point is that C-14 should be completely absent from dinosaur bone—unless dinosaurs died only thousands of years ago, not millions. That’s the Genesis Flood prediction. Want to gamble on who will be right?

We want to see a fair, unbiased suite of accurate carbon-14 tests on dinosaur soft tissue. Bring it on. We’ll see who is interested in empirical science.


  • FrankoManno says:

    Exciting times for Creationists, a little cognitive dissonance pie for long agers is on the horizon, awaiting c-14 report . . . .

  • dean says:

    Great article.

    “Sooner or later, someone will do a carbon-14 test on dinosaur soft tissue.”

    I was thinking there has already been at least one study that tested dinosaur bones for carbon-14.

    See section titled – Carbon 14 in Dinosaurs at the American Geophysical Conference in Singapore

    Carbon-14 dating of bones from 8 dinosaurs – August 15, 2012 presentation by Dr. Thomas Seiler at the AOGS-AGU (WPGM) 2012 conference in Singapore.

  • Michael says:

    dean is right. Paleontologists such as Jack Horner, who is an associate of Mary Schweitzer, refuse to radiocarbon date dinosaur bones, so creationists have had to step up. The data and travails of the Paleochronology group can be seen at http://www.newgeology.us/presentation48.html. Despite past rejections, we continue to submit papers to AGU journals as well as abstracts and posters to their conferences.

    More new dinosaur Carbon-14 results will appear in the next Creation Research Society Quarterly, authored by Brian Thomas of ICR and Vance Nelson. Mark Armitage has also said he intends to Carbon-14 date dinosaur bones he has been working with.

    It is interesting that the report from Bertazzo et al. is about dinosaur bones from Alberta, Canada. A 1993 paper by Ostrom et al. tested about 20 dinosaur bone samples for nitrogen, and found significant levels of it. Over 95% of the nitrogen in bones is in collagen, so the implication is that those bones retain collagen. By contrast, there was very little, if any, collagen in dinosaur bones from Texas, Colorado, Montana, Alaska, and China that the Paleochronology group had tested. All of these locations were not under glacial ice during the Last Glacial Maximum, whereas Alberta, Canada was. Enhanced preservation of collagen under ice would only apply to skeletons buried shortly before being covered by ice, i.e. thousands of years ago. If the bones were over 65 million years old, they would have been fried for millions of years during Eocene warming, according to the conventional timescale.

    There has been much discussion among Carbon-14 specialists about the relative merits of testing collagen vs bioapatite vs charred bone vs tooth enamel, and their resistance to contamination. Without going into the weeds here, all produce reliable results when they are in good condition, less so when weathered and leached by water.

    All the Carbon-14 dates that I have seen so far for dinosaur bones range between 20,000 and 41,000 Carbon-14 years before present (BP). This is well below the upper limit of reliability of 45,000 BP for typical Accelerator Mass Spectrometers (AMS), and 55,000 BP for advanced systems, such as the one at the University of Georgia since 2010. When radiocarbon dating any fossil bone, not just dinosaur bones, it is usually the case that samples from different places on the same bone yield results within a broad range. Therefore it is best practice to sample several fractions of a bone when possible.

    Cleaning and pretreatment with multiple acid-vacuum procedures removes almost all environmental carbon that was not in the original bone so that the results should be as reliable as those for mammoths and other Pleistocene mammals.

    In their June 9, 2015 paper and in interviews, the authors favor testing dinosaur bones in university and museum collections for soft tissue. If this gets curators to act it will have been a real turning point, opening the door to widespread Carbon-14 dating that could finally bring the house of cards down.

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