February 18, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Desperation to Keep Dinosaur Soft Tissue Old

The big guns are out to prove dinosaur blood vessels and collagen really can last tens of millions of years. Do they succeed?

A new theory for preservation of dinosaur soft tissue was just published in Nature‘s open-access journal Scientific Reports. The team, including soft-tissue expert Mary Schweitzer, used multiple methods of imaging to try to disprove the creationist claim that the presence of original material disproves long ages. A press release from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL) website BioSciences announce on Valentine’s Day, “Berkeley Lab Helps Reveal How Dinosaur Blood Vessels Can Preserve Through the Ages.” (The copy on Phys.org was more ostentatious, announcing pompously, “How dinosaur blood vessels are preserved through the ages.” The press release explains their challenge:

A team of scientists led by Elizabeth Boatman at the University of Wisconsin Stout used infrared and X-ray imaging and spectromicroscopy performed at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) to demonstrate how soft tissue structures may be preserved in dinosaur bones—countering the long-standing scientific dogma that protein-based body parts cannot survive more than 1 million years.

What they call a “dogma” is simple common sense. Proteins are delicate; amino acids racemize over time; therefore, the lifetime of original proteins has a time limit that is a tiny fraction of the assumed age of dinosaurs. Even one million years seemed indefensible. Mary Schweitzer’s discovery of soft, flexible blood vessels in a T. rex femur in 2005, highlighted on the TV news show 60 Minutes, initiated a clash between expectations of observations. TV anchor Lesley Stahl gasped when the stretchy blood vessels that Schweitzer tugged on snapped back into position like soft plastic—right before her eyes. Paleontologist Jack Horner had no explanation, nor did Schweitzer. This tissue was supposed to be over 60 million years old!

Creationists who believe in a young earth and teach that dinosaurs perished in the global Flood only thousands of years ago, took this observational evidence and ran with it. The documentary Is Genesis History? featured it. The situation called for desperate measures by old-earthers. Totalitarian Darwinists—never willing to even acknowledge the existence of creationists—realized this looked bad for their narrative of hundreds of millions of Darwin Years in the history of evolving life. Consequently, they have offered several theories to keep the soft tissue old. CEH has kept on top of those theories as they made the news and shown them to be inadequate: e.g., the slime theory (30 June 2008), the toast theory (10 Nov 2018), and the bacteria theory (18 June 2019). Will this one score better?

Protein Magic

The new paper, building on previous work about iron as a stabilizing factor, relies on two chemical processes that the scientists hope “could” make the soft tissue endure much longer than thought. BioSciences explains:

In their paper, now published in Scientific Reports, the team analyzed a sample from a 66-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex tibia to provide evidence that vertebrate blood vessels—collagen and elastin structures that don’t fossilize like mineral-based bone—may persist across geologic time through two natural, protein-fusing “cross-linking” processes called Fenton chemistry and glycation.*

*Fenton chemistry, as defined by Science Direct, is “a catalytic process that converts hydrogen peroxide, a product of mitochondrial oxidative respiration, into a highly toxic hydroxyl free radical.” Glycation could be dubbed “sugar-ation” since the prefix gly– indicates sugar. Science Direct explains that glycation is “a nonenzymatic reaction of reducing sugars or oxaldehydes with proteins, DNA, or lipids, resulting in the formation of glycation adducts (fructosamines) and advanced glycation end-products….” It’s not important to get into the weeds about these processes, since psychological influences on the research are more telling. We shall consider those shortly.

The paper relies heavily on free radicals formed by these processes that could induce iron in the blood to create cross-links in the proteins, stabilizing them from decay. Watch for the perhapsimaybecouldness score:

Fenton chemistry and glycation are both non-enzymatic reactions – meaning they can occur in deceased organisms – that are driven by the iron present in the body. “The XRF microprobe revealed the presence of finely crystalline goethite, a very stable iron oxyhydroxide mineral, on the vessels that likely contributed to the preservation of organic molecules,” said Fakra, an ALS research scientist.

The authors believe that the cross-linking reactions they found evidence of, combined with the protection offered from being surrounded by dense mineralized bone, can explain how original soft tissues persist.

They observed goethite in close proximity to the tissues; this iron-rich mineral, they think, could have contributed to the preservation. Fine differences between sites led them to “the notion that preservation depends on the microenvironment.” If the soft tissues were encased in mineralized bones, they think it would help protect the tissues.

They ran some experiments – on chickens. They used Fenton chemistry and glycation on the tissues of a recently deceased chicken to see if the same cross-links formed. They did not, however, run the critical experiment that would clinch their case: they did not observe the chicken tissues for 60 million years.


Notable in the paper are the instances of perhapsimaybecouldness words. Scientists obviously cannot wait millions of years to test their theory; all they can do is speculate whether the stabilizing process are likely to preserve the tissue back to the age of dinosaurs. Here are some word counts:

Could: 9 times. This admission in the ending Discussion section reveals the desperation in the scientists’ minds: “Data supporting endogeneity have been viewed with scepticism, in part because no mechanisms have been identified that could reasonably contribute to such preservation.”

Perhaps: 2 times, e.g.: “We hypothesise that early in diagenesis, perhaps immediately post mortem, iron-mediated Fenton and glycation pathways contributed to enhanced T. rex tissue longevity….”

May: 2 times, e.g.: “These post mortem reactions may contribute significantly to tissue preservation by conferring resistance to degradation to the structural proteins that form the basis for the vessel structure.”

Hypothesis, hypothesize, 5 times: e.g., “We hypothesize that the enzymatic and non-enzymatic pathways described herein, coupled with adsorbance to the mineralized components of bone, can result in exceptional preservation of the original organic components of dinosaurian vascular tissues.”

The Real Deal

A very important contribution this paper makes is that the dinosaur soft tissue is real. It’s not fake. It’s not bacteria. It’s not slime. It’s not a product of diagenesis (rock formation). It’s not a product of taphonomy (fossil formation). The original, primordial, honest-to-goodness, rootin’ tootin’ dinosaur protein is right there in front of their eyes. It responds to antibodies. It is pliable. It has branching, tubular structure like blood vessels. It looks and acts like protein. Multiple high-tech imaging methods guarantee it.


  • We demonstrate the endogeneity of the fossil vessel tissues, as well as the presence of type I collagen in the outermost vessel layers, using imaging, diffraction, spectroscopy, and immunohistochemistry.
  • Hollow, pliable, and transparent vessel-like structures have been recovered from skeletal elements of multiple fossil vertebrates, including non-avian dinosaurs. Their vascular affinities have been supported through the application of varied independent methods to identify endogenous component proteins including collagen, which is not produced by microbes, and elastin, which is vertebrate-specific.
  • Three types of vessels were liberated from demineralised (see Methods) T. rex cortical bone (Fig. S3), characterised as: (1) extensive, brown-hued, pliable vessel networks (Fig. 2a), (2) fragmented, opaque structures (Fig. S4a), and (3) fragmented, semi-translucent structures (Fig. S4a) under visible light microscopy (VLM). The pliable vessels (1) were hollow, ranged from 10–40 µm in width, and demonstrated branching networks consistent in size and morphology with microvascular tissues in extant bone.
  • Mass spectrometry sequencing of isolated vessels recovered from the cortical bone of a non-avian dinosaur further supported the presence of vertebrate-specific vascular proteins in isolated dinosaurian vessels.
  • All key bands for the identification of protein (Amide I, Amide II, Amide III) are present in the dinosaur tissue spectrum.
  • The above results indicate that these T. rex tissues are composed of a significant fraction of protein-derived compounds, and possess a degree of structural character consistent with fibrillar collagen.
  • The response of these dinosaur vessels to actin antibodies (Fig. 4e,f) was observed as a thin and evenly distributed layer, whereas antibodies raised against the muscle protein tropomyosin (Fig. 4g,h) were bound with greater intensity over a broader portion of the vessel walls, consistent with the distribution of these proteins in extant vessels.
  • Our data support the presence of vertebrate-specific endogenous proteins, localized to these soft tissue dinosaur structures, including the presence of a significant quantity of type I collagen, consistent in location and chemistry with the vasculature of extant vertebrates.

Burden of Proof

These scientists used a lot of whiz-bang scientific imaging equipment to scrutinize the dinosaur tissue in every way possible. That effort alone, however, does not fulfill the burden of proof. Since “long-standing scientific dogma” concurred that proteins cannot last even one million years, the burden of proof has been on old-earthers to convince unbiased observers to agree that these tissues not only “could” last 66 million years or more, but actually “did” last that long. A speculative scenario is not enough. When the burden of proof is against them, when “long-standing scientific dogma” says it cannot be that old, they need a stronger case than just ‘possibility thinking.’ Notice the bluffing and futureware in their final statements:

These results confirm earlier findings, and those reported in other studies, and shed light on the possible suite of processes involved in fossilisation at the molecular level. The ability to localize structural proteins within vascular tissues and correlate these observations to chemical and structural alterations in fossil soft tissues will contribute to the development of a comprehensive model of mechanisms that contribute to vascular tissue survival from deep time.

It will “contribute” to “contribute”? This is a house of cards, with possibilities depending on other possibilities.

Their view is even more difficult to believe when a reader applies the common sense test. A lot can happen in 66 million years! Continents move, meteorites hit, earthquakes shake, floods scour, and bioturbation mixes up the layers. In addition, biomolecules degrade from cosmic rays, radon, chemical processes and thermal effects over many millions of cycles of heat and cold.

Take another look at Figure 2. Does it look like these delicate, branching blood vessels, with intact proteins, are anywhere near as old as Darwinists claim? A picture is worth a thousand words.

Fig. 2 from Boatman et al., “Mechanisms of soft tissue and protein preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex,” Scientific Reports, 14 Feb 2020. Click to find caption in the paper.

Update: The paper was published October 30, 2019, but the press release from LBL came out Feb 14, 2020 and Phys.org echoed it on Feb 17th. Why did LBL make this stale claim look like news? Dr. Brian Thomas at ICR had responded to the claim on December 5, 2019. He keeps a list of over 100 scientifically published claims of original biomaterials in ‘old’ fossils.

When reading papers that try to defend Darwinism and deep time, one has to be scrupulously critical. There’s a lot of bluffing going on, using highfalutin big words. There are bald assertions. When talking BAD, evolutionists expect readers to take their word for it. But if you ask the important questions (Where is your evidence these are really 66 million years old, not just might be?), and understand their motivations (Darwin and deep time must be preserved at all costs!), you can begin to see through the fogma.

Notice, also, that they never engage the serious critiques coming from creationist physicists, paleontologists and biologists. Not a single creationist paper ever shows up in their References—only links to other Darwinist papers. The DODO researchers beat a straw man when they only counter the assertions of other evolutionists who find the soft-tissue claim “controversial” or who critique various models of preservation. All those buddies of theirs believe in deep time to begin with. Evolutionists need to listen to, understand, and respond to the PhDs who defy deep time assertions, showing that the Darwinian ages of these soft tissue observations (and there are many of them now) contradict well-established upper limits on age. Until they stop ignoring the existence of qualified Darwin skeptics, we should read these DODO papers as internecine squabbles among buddies who are not taking the issue seriously enough.




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