January 13, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Dino Skin with Blood Vessels, Proteins Found

So well preserved is a hadrosaur’s skin, the remnants of blood vessels and pigments are still visible with original molecules present.

It’s a phenomenal case of exceptional preservation for a dead dinosaur, but all the scientists seem excited about is the color. Michael Marshall in New Scientist titles his article, “Mummified skin suggests duck-billed dinosaurs were grey like elephants.” But is the skin color the biggest news?

A mummified dinosaur has skin so well preserved that the remains of blood vessels and pigment can be seen, and analysis of the pigment suggests that the animal had dark grey skin. However, it is possible that the dinosaur’s skin contained other pigments that haven’t been preserved.

While paintings of dinosaurs often show them with brightly coloured skin, we actually know very little about their true colours. Most dinosaurs are only known from bones and teeth, and in the few cases where their skin has been preserved, it has rarely been possible to detect pigment molecules. We know more about the colour of early birds because feathers are more frequently conserved.

Wait a minute; feathers conserved? Skin preserved? Blood vessels and pigment preserved? Dinosaurs supposedly went extinct 65 million Darwin Years ago. We can’t even find fossil buffalo in the American west that were shot dead a century ago. How is this possible? Marshall makes his improbably story even more incredible:

Matteo Fabbri and Jasmina Wiemann at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and their colleagues studied a mummified hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, which had preserved skin on its flank. When they examined thin slices of the skin, they discovered globules that look like preserved cells and fragments of blood vessels. The skin was unusually thin for such a large animal, and surprisingly similar to that of birds – even though hadrosaurs weren’t that closely related to them.

Wiemann, an expert on fossilised molecules who previously found that some dinosaurs laid blue eggs, chemically analysed the material. She found that some original molecules were preserved, in degraded form.

“Until now, we saw skin from a morphological perspective, but now we know these kinds of fossils also contain molecular information,” says Fabbri.

Preservation of such an old fossil down to the very cells and molecules should make people gasp. The public is always told that dinosaurs died nearly a hundred million Darwin Years ago. Until soft tissue was discovered in dinosaurs and other ‘ancient’ creatures, scientists didn’t believe original molecules could last anywhere near that long. Everything should have been replaced by minerals, and turned to stone.

Commonly Found

Fabbri et al.’s paper in Palaeontology includes renowned fossil expert Derek Briggs. Investigating the molecular nature of residues in the skin, they say that “samples of epidermis, dermis, bone and inner and outer sediment were identified on the basis of observations on the thin sections.” The team claims that this kind of tissue preservation is the rule, not the exception. Here’s the Abstract in full, so that readers can see we are not making this up:

The most commonly preserved soft tissues associated with ornithischian dinosaurs are skin remains. The apparent resistance of hadrosaur skin to decay, and its abundance in the fossil record relative to that of other tetrapods, has been attributed to factors such as thickness and composition. Here we report additional intrinsic factors within hadrosaur skin: 3D‐preserved eumelanin‐bearing bodies, dermal cells and blood vessel fragments in an organic matrix composed of protein fossilization products. The skin is much thinner than that of living mammals of similar size. It is likely that the preservation of hadrosaur skin is related to the arrangement of the layers composing it.

But can the arrangement of layers protect dinosaur skin from degradation for many millions of years? They just said in the previous sentence that the skin is much thinner than mammal skin, and that preservation of dinosaur skin had been falsely attributed to thickness. “Thus, thickness does not appear to be a reliable explanation for the high frequency of skin preservation in hadrosaurs,” the scientists say. The “arrangement of the layers” is also a poor explanation. This 3-millimeter-thick skin was not arranged with layers of platinum armor. It should have been long gone!

Fig. 4 from Fabre et al, “Three-dimensional soft tissue preservation revealed in the skin of a non‐avian dinosaur,” Palaeontology, 30 Dec, 2019.

Explanation for the Birds

Whenever evolutionists talk about dinosaurs, they try to interject bird evolution. This paper was no exception, stating the skin resembled that of birds. But the hadrosaur is not related to birds! Why would “plesiomorphic” (convergent) evolution make them similar? The authors suggest it was for “physiological” reasons – i.e., they had similar needs for their environments. Evolutionary theory is so flexible, it could take opposite observations and fit it into Darwin’s web of belief.

Dinosaur Racism

Marshall retreats back into his skin-color obsession like some dinosaur racist: “If the hadrosaur really was grey, it would make sense, says Fabbri, because they were large herbivores and moved in herds, a little like today’s grey-skinned elephants.” That makes no sense at all. Wildebeest are herbivores and move in herds, but they are not gray. Skin color has nothing to do with it. Many exceptions can be found to Marshall’s made-up rule: buffalo, zebras, and horses – think of the variety of colors in horses. And consider giraffes, how colorful they are. Being a large herbivore does not require gray skin. Fabbri’s team can’t even rule out the presence of other pigments in the fossil that may not have been preserved as well as gray eumelanin.

It’s a good thing the paper is open-access, because everyone can gasp in unison at this evidence that original molecules were found in this specimen thought to be nearly a hundred million years old. Some skin has been turned to stone (permineralized), but not all of it.

Fossilized skin is preserved in three main ways: as impressions, compressions or permineralized, three‐dimensional skin (Schweitzer 2011). Impressions are occasionally found in association with bones or footprints (e.g. Lockley et al. 2004; Paik et al. 2017). Compressions are preserved as a carbon‐rich layer surrounding bones (e.g. Briggs et al. 1997; Qiang et al. 1998; Wang et al. 2019). Permineralized skin is the rarest of the three modes of preservation (Schweitzer 2011; Bell 2012; Davis 2014) and usually occurs in association with three dimensionally preserved skeletons. Permineralized skin was previously thought to be a high‐fidelity mineralized replication of the original organic tissue (Schweitzer 2011). However, recent investigations of a few exceptionally preserved examples have challenged this view by recovering original organic molecules. Dinosaurian integument preserved as a result of early mineralization is known in Ornithischia, Sauropoda and Theropoda (Briggs et al. 1997; Martill et al. 2000; Bell 2012; Davis 2014; McNamara et al. 2018). The preservation of integument is most prevalent in hadrosaurs (Bell 2012; Davis 2014). However, the taphonomic processes that favour the fossilization of skin and associated molecular preservation are still poorly understood (Lyson & Longrich 2011; Bell 2012; Davis 2014). Previous investigations of dinosaur skin were performed on the basal ceratopsian Psittacosaurus (Lingham‐Soliar 2008), a nodosaur (Brown et al. 2017), and coelurosaurs (Navalón et al. 2015; Bell et al. 2017; McNamara et al. 2018). Traces of collagenous material were found in a ‘mummified’ hadrosaurid from North Dakota, USA (Manning et al. 2009). Skin colouration patterns have been reconstructed in ornithischian dinosaurs (Lingham‐Soliar & Plodowski 2010; Vinther et al. 2016; Brown et al. 2017) but not in a hadrosaurid.

Readers can find more evidence of original molecules in the text and photos of the paper. They state in conclusion, “Our results demonstrate that mineralized dinosaur integument can yield fragments of proteinaceous soft tissues.

Taphonomy Anomaly

The authors admit, “the taphonomic processes that favour the fossilization of skin and associated molecular preservation are still poorly understood.” So let’s try to understand it.

A hadrosaur is a big animal – 3D big in height, length, and width. Elephants today do not fall over on their sides when they die and fossilize like this, with their skin, blood vessels and pigment cells being preserved in fine detail. Something very unusual happened to this dinosaur and many others like it found with skin preserved. It had to be buried suddenly, quickly and completely. A big-enough flood could do that, loaded with sediment to prevent decay. Sediment, by the way, was found on top of the fossil. The authors said their first aim was “to understand its taphonomy” (process of fossilization), but they didn’t talk any more about taphonomy. They didn’t consider burial in a flood. The main thing they talk about is the color of the beast’s skin. Is that not a distraction?

The word “protein” appears 11 times in the paper, such as in these quotes:

  • Vascular networks, fragments of formerly proteinaceous matrix and globular structures resembling cells were extracted by decalcification of epidermis, dermis and bone…
  • Raman microspectroscopy shows that this carbon‐rich layer is composed of diagenetically altered eumelanin in a degraded extracellular proteinaceous matrix
  • Raman spectroscopy confirmed their organic nature and detected oxidative protein transformation products but no amino acid residues.
  • Patches of avascular, originally proteinaceous extracellular matrix embedding small, dark‐brown eumelanin‐rich granules from 0.2 to 0.5 mm in diameter were recovered from the epidermis.
  • The mineral composition of the dermis is interpreted as a result of precipitation of authigenic minerals, including calcite, following decay of more labile organic molecular components, e.g. proteins and lipids.
  • Our results demonstrate that mineralized dinosaur integument can yield fragments of proteinaceous soft tissues.

The scientists took extra precautions to prevent contamination. If these are indeed products of original protein material, even if degraded, it cannot be millions of years old. Chemical processes alone will degrade and randomize protein material over time. It should not be possible to see any protein material left after so much time, except for one thing: evolutionists require millions of years for Darwinism to work. The “age of dinosaurs” is so embedded in the secular consensus and in education, it would take a scientific revolution for this evidence to rock the boat.

The Creation Alternative

Today (Jan 13), Creation Ministries International reprinted an article from last January by Brian Thomas, PhD, an expert in fossil preservation. He reviewed the book Dire Dragons by Vance Nelson (2011), which documents medieval sightings of ‘dragons’ that could be dinosaurs (the word ‘dinosaur’ did not exist until the 1800s). Thomas says, “the book eschews artwork with even a whiff of doubt about its authenticity or clarity.” The numerous examples of dragon depictions around the world speak from history that people saw creatures that could have been dinosaurs. If some species survived the Great Flood, they could have been driven to extinction by people who counted it a courageous feat to kill one, as in the tales of “St. George and the Dragon.” Selective extinction by human intelligent design makes more sense than the evolutionary tale of some unguided ‘event’ that killed off every dinosaur but didn’t hurt butterflies and other flimsy creatures.

All but a few species perhaps taken with Noah died in the Flood. Most likely the post-Flood environment prevented dinosaur proliferation, and perhaps they were unable to grow so large. People could have killed off the surviving dinosaurs because they were pests to crops and villages, and there was no EPA to stop them. This is reasonable because many secular scientists believe that humans had a role in the extinction of the large ‘megafauna’ in the Americas. The Creation/Flood account would explain soft tissue preservation in dinosaurs, because they were buried not so long ago. It also has some eyewitness testimony. No scientist lived 100 million imaginary Darwin Years ago.

Read about soft tissue in a marine reptile in our 3 January 2020 entry.

Soft tissue finds are becoming so common, there is a danger of taking them for granted. When we highlight these discoveries, don’t forget that they pose a formidable challenge to the secular story of evolution, dinosaurs evolving into birds, and all the rest. Keep the pressure on.

Suggestion: You might consider printing color photos of the most reputable soft tissue cases to show people as conversation starters. It sows doubt in their minds about the evolutionary tale. Also show photos of medieval depictions to reinforce the idea that dinosaurs may have been witnessed in historical times. One caution: always use the most reputable sources to keep credibility foolproof (see example of the ‘Black Wash non-dragon’ in Brian Thomas’s article). The best kind is evidence that is announced by evolutionists themselves—as in this paper—and not denied by secularists. When the scientists try to change the subject or re-state their narrative, many listeners will catch on that they have no explanation.


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  • txpiper says:

    “The scientists also noted that the internal anatomy of the ancient animals was well preserved, which is rare for fossils of this age. When they compared the anatomy of the two fossils to modern-day scorpions, they found striking similarities in the circulatory and respiratory structures. “This suggests that parts of the internal anatomy of scorpions have not changed much in nearly 440 million years,” Dunlop says. The researchers know the ages of fossils ages thanks to other well-dated animal fossils at the site.”


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