Hadrosaur Skin Flick
The press is abuzz with the story of a mummified hadrosaur found in North Dakota with skin and fossilized soft parts; see PhysOrg, Science Daily, Associated Press and BBC News. Since the fully-articulated, uncollapsed, mummified fossil named “Dakota” was discovered in 1999, though, it appears that the announcement is being made now primarily as publicity for a National Geographic documentary airing December 9.
The exceptionally-preserved specimen has allowed paleontologists to understand more details about the skin patterns, muscle mass and body proportions of hadrosaurs, and to infer something about its running speed. Of interest beyond these details echoed in all the news media reports, however, is what page two of the National Geographic story said about soft-tissue preservation. Acknowledging that Mary Schweitzer’s team earlier this year had reported evidence for unfossilized collagen (04/12/2007) in a T. rex bone, the NG article states that the hunt is on for preserved macromolecules in Dakota. If they have been detected, no one is talking about it till the peer-reviewed paper is published. One team member admitted, though, that “We have an array of chemical analysis techniques that we’re applying to the organism—and not just to the skin.” Any future announcement of preserved proteins or nucleic acids may be the biggest story within an already big story.
See also the 10/15/2002 story about Leonardo, another mummified dinosaur found in Montana.
Evolutionary paleontologists know that creationists are going to beat them over the head with any discovery of preserved soft tissue and biomolecules, so one has to wonder how hesitant they are to reveal what they find. Hopefully, the excitement of a such a find, and the value of scientific objectivity, will prevent a cover-up. Such news would deal a severe blow to the belief these specimens are 65+ million years old, and once confidence in millions of years is shattered, the whole evolutionary tree will be undermined with it.
Think of how long the Darwin Party has been feeding the public the assumption of long ages. They know the public is going to find it hard to swallow the line that soft tissue and DNA or proteins could lie undisturbed for tens of millions of years. With so much at stake, and the cult of Darwin vulnerable to a mass exodus, will they tell the whole truth? It may take creationist expeditions to do original research in this area to get the facts out. They will need to provide unimpeachable documentation and technical rigor to rule out any claims of contamination. Let’s wait and see what the peer-reviewed paper says. Creationists do not stand to lose face if soft tissue is not found, because it is tenuous stuff (even for burials of known age). But if it is found, it would be much more plausible to believe it has been preserved for thousands of years, not tens of millions.
National Geographic, as expected, spun the collagen story into an argument for dinosaurs being related to birds. But what is the common answer to the question “What does it taste like?” when your friend is offered filet of snake, frog legs or unidentified Chinese mystery meat? Answer: “It tastes like chicken.” Undoubtedly, hadrosaur tastes like chicken, too. That doesn’t mean a chicken is a frog, snake, or hadrosaur. Similarities do not prove common ancestry, but the fact that our shared biochemistry allows us to consume molecules from a variety of animals indicates common design.