Tick Talk: Mammal Blood Found in Amber
Can intact blood be preserved for 15 to 45 million years, give or take 50 million?
The latest soft tissue discovery gets the Darwin storytellers hopping:
- Fossilized Tick Reveals Perfectly Preserved Red Blood Cells (Tia Ghose in Live Science): “A blood-engorged tick that was trapped in amber at least 20 million years ago contained perfectly preserved red blood cells, likely from a monkey.”
- Monkey business produces rare preserved blood in amber fossils (Oregon State press release): “Part of what makes these fossils unique, Poinar said, is the clarity by which the parasites and blood cells are preserved, almost as if they had been stained and otherwise treated in a laboratory for inspection.”
The alleged “monkey business” refers to grooming, which the storytellers assume that unidentified primates were engaged in. The unseen primates, “among other hosts,” must have been around during the alleged time frame of 15 or 20 or 30 or 45 million years ago, depending on the storytelling source. These unseen primates must have been engaged in some unobserved grooming, when one of them might have removed the tick and flicked it into sap oozing from an unseen tree. Tia Ghose outlines the reasoning:
The red blood cells were too big to have belonged to most mammals; the size ruled out everything but dogs, rabbits and similar creatures or primates. However, rabbits and dogs did not live in the region at that time, while paleontologists have recovered numerous primate fossils dating roughly to the same ages. So a primate is the likeliest host for the tick — and primates are known for grooming each other.
The open-access paper in the Journal of Medical Entomology provides the bloody details. What is author George Poinar’s feeling about the amazing preservation?
Due to the preservative qualities of the fossilized resin (Poinar and Hess 1985), not only were the fossil erythrocytes preserved intact, but also intra-erythrocytic pathogens resembling extant members of the families Babesiidae and Theileriidae of the Order Piroplasmida.
Poinar’s 1985 paper, page one of which has been scanned by Taylor & Francis, says that resin possesses two features that preserve biological material: (1) ‘antibiotic qualities’ able to ‘retard or destroy’ bacteria and fungi; (2) “the ability of resin itself to preserve the tissues of embalmed organisms.” That sounds circular; that is the very ability at issue. Poinar and Hess point to Egyptian mummies as evidence that resins preserve tissue. But Egyptians used myrrh, not resin. Myrrh has other ingredients. Moreover, Egyptian mummies were not completely embedded inside a resin shell.
If resin’s antibiotic qualities only retard bacteria and fungi, then a clock starts ticking (pun intended). Tens of millions of years seem ample for retarded fungi and bacteria to do a number on luscious red blood cells. If, on the other hand, resin can destroy bacteria and fungi, it can also degrade red blood cells, it would seem. Even so, the proteins will degrade in tissue over time even without the help of fungi or bacteria. Internal motions within the molecules should burst bonds and render proteins unrecognizable, given enough time. These decay rates should be measurable. A 2011 paper estimates a maximum age of 200,000 to 700,000 Darwin Years for collagen to decay to 1% of its original abundance — and collagen is one of the toughest proteins.
If tree resin has such preservation qualities, couldn’t that be tested in the lab? Couldn’t a tick engorged with blood be dropped into liquid tree sap and examined after a year to measure decay rates? Wouldn’t it be better to have some actual measurement data instead of assertions by evolutionists that things can last millions of years?
Here’s a five-year science project that a citizen scientist or creation laboratory could undertake. Collect six ticks that have just fed on blood from the same mammal. Embed them in separate droplets of tree sap, and put them in identical vials simulating a plausible environment for ticks. After a week, check the protein condition of the blood in one of the vials. After one year, check the protein condition in another vial. Continue each year thereafter. Graph the results. If the decay rate falls on a line, it should be possible to estimate an upper limit for preservation.
If any readers know of similar published measurements, please leave a comment and link. The Darwinians are escaping prosecution by storytelling (see ‘impersonating a scientist’, 9/30/2007 commentary), claiming that soft tissue can last essentially forever. Time for the labs to get busy on the forensic investigation, so that the CEH police can start making arrests.