June 25, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Baby Arctic Dinosaurs Challenge Narrative

Something is terribly wrong with a report that baby dinosaurs hatched and lived in frigid Arctic tundra for millions of years.

Researchers who recovered tiny bits and pieces of baby dinosaur bones and teeth in Alaska deserve credit for bravery and endurance. It was hard work. The banks of the Colville River in Alaska are difficult to get to, requiring aircraft and rafts, and the cliffs are fragile, collapsing easily, posing a danger to investigators. The working season is short, too. But in this fossil-bearing river bank called the Prince Creek Formation (PCF), amazing evidences of a multitude of dinosaur species are found, including tyrannosaurs, ceratopsians, and hadrosaurs.

Prior to the news reports that came out June 24, scientists thought that dinosaurs must have migrated up there each summer, because no cold-blooded animals could survive such harsh conditions where the sun disappears four months of the year and the ground becomes frozen. Now, though, tiny bones of infants and juveniles found in the PCF are prompting a rethink. Did dinosaurs live there year round? Did they raise their young there? How did they do it? Even taking into account continental drift, the site would have been inside the Arctic Circle when the dinosaurs lived. Were dinosaurs warm-blooded after all, as some paleontologists have suggested for years? Reporters are excited at the thought.

Most dinosaurs lived in rich ecosystems or deserts where ambient temperatures were high.

The Reports

Dinosaurs lived in the Arctic around 70 million years ago (New Scientist). Patrick Druckenmiller of the University of Alaska Museum of the North is amazed. He knew dinosaur remains were found there, but no one knew how they could survive the cold and darkness of winter.

It is a frozen tundra now, but the climate was very different 70 million years ago. Petrified logs at the site suggest the area was at least partially forested then. “It’s all the more amazing that, thanks to plate tectonics, Alaska was actually 10 degrees farther north than it is today,” says Druckenmiller.

Research team discovers Arctic dinosaur nursery (University of Alaska, Fairbanks). A photo shows Druckenmiller and colleague Greg Erickson wrapping a sample in a plaster cast. They are wondering if the young hibernated through the winter, which would imply endothermy (warm-bloodedness). Otherwise it seems incredible they could live up there.

“It wasn’t long ago that people were pretty shocked to find out that dinosaurs lived up in the Arctic 70 million years ago,” said Pat Druckenmiller, the paper’s lead author and director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North. “We now have unequivocal evidence they were nesting up there as well. This is the first time that anyone has ever demonstrated that dinosaurs could reproduce at these high latitudes.

Multiple dinosaur species not only lived in the Arctic, they also nested there (Phys.org). Dinosaurs are not the only fossils found in the Prince Creek Formation. Did the beasts have “unique strategies to cope with darkness, cold temperatures, and food limitation”? How did they evolve those, when most dinosaurs are known from temperate and equatorial latitudes?

“Year-round residency in the Arctic provides a natural test of dinosaurian physiology,” Erickson says. “Cold-blooded terrestrial vertebrates like amphibians, lizards, and crocodilians have yet to be found, only warm-blooded birds and mammals—and dinosaurs. I think that this is some of the most compelling evidence that dinosaurs were in fact warm-blooded.”

Baby dinosaurs hatched in the Arctic 70 million years ago (Live Science). This article has the most photos of the research team at work, and indicates what the environment looks like today. It also details the species and families of dinosaur bones found. It’s hard to imagine how these beasts got along.

How they pulled it off, we don’t know,” Erickson said. Some small dinosaurs might have burrowed and hibernated, but larger dinosaurs — such as duck-billed dinosaurs and tyrannosaurs — weren’t able to burrow. “Maybe they just had to stick it out like a moose or musk oxen. Somehow, they got through,” Erickson said.

The Paper

The official paper is open access: Druckenmiller, Erickson, Brinkman, Brown and Eberle, “Nesting at extreme polar latitudes by non-avian dinosaurs,” Current Biology June 24, 2021, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.05.041.

The Narrative

The official narrative goes like this: “somehow” dinosaurs from eight families “had to stick it out” at far north latitudes where it’s dark and freezing four months of the year.  The idea that they made annual migrations up there in the summer months is no longer tenable. Nobody knows how “they pulled it off,” but the bones show they must have lived and bore their young up there. Perhaps they were warm-blooded after all. Since petrified logs are found, the area must have been forested when the dinosaurs were alive. They lived up in the Arctic for millions of years.

The science news sites are all showing this artwork by James Haven of adult tyrannosaurs with young in their assumed life positions in Alaska.

Inconsistencies of Evidence with Narrative

Yet some pieces of evidence don’t seem to fit the narrative. It’s not like they found a mother hadrosaur sitting on a nest of young. No eggshells have been found yet, and the baby bones are really tiny: a dozen are shown on a penny. The deposit is a jumbled matrix of sand, rock, bone, and soil. The researchers found the bones by sifting material through a series of screens each with finer mesh down to 500 micrometers. According to the Phys.org report,

“The field season is short in the Arctic and access is very difficult—aircraft and small boats are required,” Druckenmiller says. “To make matters more challenging, the only way to see the rocks is in river-cut steep bluffs along the largest river in Northern Alaska, the Colville. These bluffs are dangerous, prone to catastrophic collapses, making it hard to safely find and extract fossils. As such, we have focused on finding discrete bonebed horizons where we can more efficiently excavate many bones….”

Of those bonebed horizons, the paper says that the fossil material is highly disarticulated and scattered:

The majority of small bones and teeth described in this study come from microvertebrate assemblages exposed in outcrops of the Prince Creek Formation along the Colville River. One of these sites, Pediomys Point, has been long known to produce small bones and teeth of fish, dinosaurs and mammals. Three new microvertebrate sites provided much of the perinatal material described in this study…. All are very similar to Pediomys Point in their lithology and architecture in being thin (2-15 cm thickness), silty to sandy, organic-rich lenticular bodies (see Rich et al.1 for more detailed discussion of sedimentology). We interpret these lenses to be time-averaged lag deposits formed at the base of fluvial channels. Disarticulated skeletal elements from both large and small bodied individuals are preserved in the deposits, particularly at OJsaurus and Jacob’s Bed. As a time-averaged deposit, these sites contain elements that have undergone varying degrees of weathering and transport. The majority of bones and teeth figured in this study preserve fragile structures such as articular condyles and delicate tooth roots and display undamaged surface textures indicative of minimal transport, although some elements exhibit slightly greater degrees of surface modification due to either weathering or rounding during transport. To date, there is no indication of eggshell preservation, possibly due to acidic pore waters.

While some of the teeth and claws retain their sharpness, indicating that transport was not prolonged (which would have rounded the bones), the bones were transported, they say, probably by floods. A 2010 paper suggests this:

Several dinosaurian bonebeds occur within the Campanian–Maastrichtian portion of the Prince Creek Formation of northern Alaska along a 45 km stretch of the Colville River. These beds are characterized by the occurrence of bones from large numbers of juvenile to sub-adult dinosaurs entombed in a hydraulically incompatible fine-grained matrix. The skeletal elements show little evidence for articulation, though there is evidence for association. Further, the bones show little evidence of post-mortem alteration such as prolonged exposure to weathering, predation, or trampling. The sediments of the Late Cretaceous to Paleocene Prince Creek Formation represent a continental succession deposited on a high-latitude, low-gradient alluvial/coastal plain. Deposition occurred in trunk channels, on distributary-channel splay complexes, in interdistributary bays, and on floodplains. These bonebeds formed under unique paleoclimatic and paleogeographic conditions. … Seasonal flow due to the combination of snow melt and alpine permafrost in the ancestral Brooks Range likely produced regularly occurring seasonal floods, which are the likely killing mechanism that resulted in the formation of these bonebeds.

Fiorillo et al., “Taphonomic and sedimentologic interpretations of the dinosaur-bearing Upper Cretaceous Strata of the Prince Creek Formation, Northern Alaska: Insights from an ancient high-latitude terrestrial ecosystem,” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Volume 295, Issues 3–4, 15 September 2010, Pages 376-388.

The University of Alaska team refers to this paper as the plausible account of the taphonomy: i.e., how the bones were transported and buried. By all accounts, therefore, the evidence shows that the dinosaurs did not live at the spot. Some energetic process disarticulated the bones such that fine mesh screens were required to find them. And yet relatively shallow river floods, tumbling with rocks and gravel, typically break off the edges of rocks and bones, leaving their edges rounded.

Whatever happened to these dinosaurs, it left their bones scattered yet well preserved. Fiorillo et al. say that the bonebeds formed “under unique paleoclimatic and paleogeographic conditions,” and yet they turn right around and attribute the killing mechanism to “regularly occurring seasonal floods.” Did seasonal floods continue doing this for millions of years? If so, why are the bonebed horizons so thin? Why are there not thousands of similar bonebeds in the deposit, stacked like pancakes, if uniformitarianism is correct?

Is it possible that unswerving commitment to the standard geologic column is driving the narrative against the evidence?

Something dramatic happened to these animals. The evidence does not support the standard story. One does not see evidence of slow-and-gradual, uniformitarian conditions here. The scientists express astonishment at their data, finding it hard to believe that large reptiles lived here normally, sitting on nests and rearing their young who had to endure whole lifetimes with only 8 months a year of partially tolerable conditions, the rest of the year in darkness. Animals gotta eat. What’s up with these bone beds? Some scientists outside the consensus echo chamber should take a look at this evidence, which the establishment already attributes to floods.

And they have! Read the following articles at creation sites that mention this very site: the bone beds of the Colville River. Extricate your mind from the moyboy dogma and look at the evidence with fresh eyes:

Troy Lacey, “Were Duck-Billed Dinosaurs Found in Alaska Warm Blooded?” (Answers in Genesis, 7 Nov 2015). In this article, Lacey asks, “What Does the Data Show When Stripped of Evolutionary Assumptions?” Geologist Andrew Snelling offers some facts that don’t fit the evolutionary narrative, but indicate a recent and rapid burial of the dinosaur bones from elsewhere.

Paul Price, “Media bias hides the significance of Alaskan hadrosaur finds” (Creation.com, 30 Oct 2015). Price quotes Dr Mori showing that a fossil hadrosaur on the Colville River was found unpermineralized—not fossilized by mineral replacement—indicating that the original bone material was still there! Despite that fact, the media reported it as “fossilized” material. If it was not fossilized, it could not be millions of years old, even if frozen.

Paul Price, “The curious case of the ‘unfossilized’ bones” (Creation.com, 15 Dec 2016). This is an update to Price’s earlier article. He reached out to Dr Fiorillo, an expert on the Alaska bone beds, who tried to deny Dr Mori’s claim that the dinosaur bones were unpermineralized. Dr Mori, however, stood by his story. Read the evidence and decide if peer pressure was making Fiorillo try to dodge the evidence.

Don Batten, “The creation music man (who makes dinosaurs): A chat with singer/sculptor Buddy Davis” (Creation.com, reprinted from Creation Magazine June 1997). Buddy Davis, who made the full-scale model dinosaurs for AiG’s Creation Museum, tells Batten about his rigorous trip with creation geologist John Whitmore and with Dr Speck to the Colville River in 1996.

Our team of five went to the North Slope of Alaska, about as far north as you can go without actually getting into the Arctic Ocean. We landed at a little place called Umiat, population two, in a small bush plane and there picked up rubber rafts and rafted a hundred miles down the glacier-fed Colville river. The third day we found our first dinosaur remains. [Prof.] John Whitmore, our geologist and team leader, spied this fossil head—it was just dropping out of the bank ready to fall into the river. Dr Speck and I paddled just as hard as we could, and I just got my hands on it and, you know, the current was pulling us. And so I’m hanging onto this thing trying to pull it loose and get it in our rubber raft. It weighed 80 pounds [40 kilograms]—it’s a wonder it didn’t sink the raft. We later identified it as a Lambeosaurus—the furthest north such dinosaur remains have been found.

Despite being hounded by mosquitoes and enduring cold and quicksand, they succeeded in finding some of the dinosaur bones they had heard about:

The Liscomb Bone Bed has probably thousands of frozen unfossilized dinosaur bonessome of them have the ligaments still attached. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure the importance of this. To believe that it is 65 million years or more since these dinosaurs lived on earth—that takes a lot of faith. It doesn’t take near as much faith to believe that they might have been frozen for a couple of thousand years at most. It places dinosaurs well within the time of man, so I think that’s exciting. That’s what we went there for—to find the frozen dinosaur bones and the Lord was very, very gracious to us. We brought back (under an official permit) over two hundred pounds of bones. It was a neat team and we all give God the glory.

At the time, Buddy Davis was convinced that they had unfossilized dinosaur bone material. He wrote a book about the trip that was more adventure story than scientific report. Later inspection in the lab led Dr Whitmore to be skeptical of the claim. Some organic material was found, but was not corroborated by other labs. It was “extremely degraded,” said one lab. “Until further testing can prove otherwise,” Dr Whitmore advised in 2005, “the Alaskan dinosaur bones should be referred to as ‘fossilized.'”

Nevertheless, the team’s analysis was done before Mary Schweitzer made headlines by claiming to find original material like collagen in dinosaur bones. It may be time to revisit the bones with newer techniques Schweitzer used before ruling out the possibility that original biological material from dinosaurs exists in the PCF. Could proteins and perhaps DNA fragments be found? Evolutionists have resisted Schweitzer’s conclusion (18 Feb 2020) because any organic material that “old” should long have disappeared.

Look at the evidence for yourself and decide if the moyboy timeline is a help or hindrance to understanding what really must have happened.

Note: comments updated 6/29/2021 after personal communication with Dr Whitmore.




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