This time Mary Schweitzer’s team found keratin protein on a claw of an ostrich-sized dinosaur from Mongolia.
If you put a chicken under a sand dune, will it last for 75 million years? That’s what a report on PhysOrg seems to imply. Like some bird claws, the claws of dinosaurs have a keratinous sheath that covers the digits. Some of the protein from that sheath has now been detected in a fossil of “an emu-sized dinosaur that lived in what is now Mongolia during the Cretaceous period.”
Keratin makes up hair and fingernails on us humans. It comes in two forms, alpha-keratin and a more durable beta-keratin. The researchers who dug up the “exceptionally preserved” specimen noticed the similarity of this dinosaur’s claw sheath to that of a living ostrich’s claw sheath, so they ran some tests to see if it could be original protein. Alison Moyer is a PhD candidate from North Carolina State who is now doing a postdoc at Drexel University.
IHC [immunohistochemical] testing utilizes antibodies that react against a particular protein. If the protein is present, the antibodies bind to small regions of the protein and indicate where the protein is located in the tissue. Moyer used beta-keratin antibodies derived from modern bird feathers. In initial IHC testing, results were inconclusive, which led Moyer to look more closely at the specimen. She found an unusually high concentration of calcium in the fossil claw — much higher than would be found in claws from the living birds used in comparison or from the sediment surrounding the fossil. Theorizing that the calcium might be affecting results, Moyer removed the calcium and did further IHC testing on the claw sheath material.
After the calcium was removed, the antibodies reacted much more strongly, indicating the presence of beta-keratin and preservation of original molecules.
NC State is the home institution of Mary Schweitzer, who caught international attention in 2005 with discovery of soft tissue in a T. rex femur (see 3/24/05 and CBS 60 Minutes interview). Since then, many examples of original biological material have been found in creatures thought to have died tens or hundreds of millions of years ago. Most scientists had thought that biological tissues could not last a hundred thousand years, let alone millions. The authors say as much in an indirect way:
Although conventional wisdom challenges the preservation of endogenous molecular remains, our combined data support the presence of original, proteinaceous material associated with this specimen, and add to the literature supporting molecular preservation in fossil materials across geological time.
Those with access to the Royal Society journals can look up the paper for details. Schweitzer is listed as a co-author. The abstract says, “The fossil sheath was compared with that of extant birds, revealing similar morphology and microstructural organization.” It suggests that calcium acted as a preservative. The presence of hydrophobic amino acid residues cross-linked by disulfide bonds may have helped, they say. Unfortunately, the methods used precluded sequencing the protein to compare it with modern keratin.
There are some who are not surprised to find soft tissue in fossils. Outspoken creationist Mark Armitage, who recently won a settlement against California State University for having fired him when he published a peer-reviewed paper on soft tissue in a Triceratops fossil he himself dug up and analyzed (10/04/16), believes the evidence not only refutes millions of years but supports the Biblical account of dinosaurs and all life.
Breaking News 11/10/16: Another feathered dinosaur fossil has been reported from China. An exceptionally-preserved “mud dragon” (see Fox News) has its head arched back in the common “dinosaur death pose” indicative of suffocation. The open-access paper in Scientific Reports does not mention any soft-tissue preservation in this specimen of an oviraptorosaur, nor any impressions of feathers. Paleontologist Stephen Brusatte thinks it was a winged, flightless creature that got stuck in mud, but he was not present when the fossil was uncovered by workmen using dynamite in a building project. “Many of these discoveries are not found by professors or academic scientists with PhDs, but by farmers and workmen. This new discovery is a prime example of that.”
We’re still waiting for the moyboys to tell the world how so much soft tissue can last for millions of years. This was not their prediction. It was a complete surprise. Now they are in rescue mode, trying to salvage their precious millions of years against the evidence of science and reason. Too much is at stake for them to admit defeat, so they have to ignore the implications of this powerful evidence. We’ll just keep putting it out there and letting common-sense people figure out what it means.
Think about this, too: If the millions of years collapses for dinosaurs, it collapses for the story that birds evolved from dinosaurs. So what if this Mongolian dinosaur had similar proteins in its claws to extant birds? Big deal. Birds and dinosaurs were contemporaries, not ancestors or descendants by a Darwinian just-so story. Humans have keratin on their fingernails, too. Keratin is found in all kinds of reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. All it proves is that animals have a common designer.