October 5, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Dino Expert Cannot Explain Soft Tissue

Overheard on the Editor’s vacation: a dinosaur expert is baffled by soft tissue.

Anecdote by David Coppedge, CEH Editor

On my recent vacation, I was in Yellowstone National Park, waiting for a geyser to erupt. While it was taking longer than expected, I struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman who was nearby, and found out that he is a retired dinosaur expert, well known by most of the big-name paleontologists. I won’t give his name because I did not get his permission to quote him, but he told me he built one of the largest dinosaur exhibits in the United States. He also had identified and named at least three dinosaur species.

I was not there to debate or argue, but to strike up a casual friendship and learn about what he knew. In our conversation, I brought up the subject of dinosaur soft tissue. He agreed it was a fascinating subject. He was fluent with the literature by Mary Schweitzer and others and the numerous finds, although in his personal research he had only observed mummified dinosaur skin, which was not original tissue, but impressions that had turned to stone.

I asked him how soft tissue, including flexible vessels that Schweitzer had found (YouTube), could have lasted for so many years. He paused and responded pensively,

I don’t have an answer for that.

We also discussed how scientists can ignore evidence that they are not expecting to see. He agreed.

Here was a key example of seeing something that doesn’t fit into a paradigm, and rather than changing the paradigm of long ages, he preferred leaving it as an unexplained mystery.

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