Evolution in the News - April 2005
by Do-While Jones

Surprising Dinosaurs

If dinosaur bones contain soft tissue, then maybe they aren’t millions of years old.

The “Far Side” cartoon that Gary Larson is ashamed of has been removed.

What some popular newscasts called “surprising” on March 24 was not surprising to us, and probably wasn’t surprising to you if you have been a faithful reader of Disclosure.

Our readers have known for years that Mary Schweitzer found some T. rex bones with dried blood cells in them in 1990. This was surprising because the blood should have completely disintegrated if the bones were really 65 million years old. She published her findings in the June 1997 issue of Earth, a now-defunct science magazine written for the general public. It was not a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal. The article was reviewed in the September-November 1997 issue of Creation Ex Nihilo, a creationist magazine published by Answers in Genesis.

Someone read one of these articles in 1999, and misunderstood it. She thought that “living red blood cells” were found in dinosaur bones, and sent us an email asking about it.

We looked into it, and found the original Earth article. This took some doing because the magazine had gone out of business by then. Fortunately, we found a copy in an Oklahoma library. We also found “Preservation of the Bone Protein Osteocalcin in Dinosaurs” by Gerard Muyzer, et al., in Geology, Vol. 20, October 1992. We reported our findings in the May, 1999, newsletter.

Since Mary Schweitzer was from Montana State University Northern, we checked the university website expecting to find something about the discovery. The MSUN web site didn’t say a word about it, but did have information about an upcoming dinosaur dig. I went on the dinosaur dig July 20 – 26, 1999, partly to go on a dinosaur dig, and partly to look for people who might have been involved with Mary at the time of the discovery. We reported on that trip in the September and October, 1999, newsletters.

We discovered, from someone who knew Mary and saw the bones in question, that the bones really were stained with dried blood. She also told us that Mary had been figuratively tarred and feathered, and run out of town on a rail for publishing her discovery in the popular press. (Mary is now at North Carolina State University.)

The “New” Discovery

With this background, we can understand the real significance of these recent published reports.

John R. Horner of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University said the discovery is "a fantastic specimen," but probably is not unique. Other researchers might find similarly preserved soft tissues if they split open the bones in their collections, said Horner, a co-author of the paper.

Most museums, he said, prefer to keep their specimens intact. 1

Dinosaur Jack Horner is being more than a little bit tongue-in-cheek. Although I don’t know Jack , I do know two people who know him pretty well. One of them has given me good reason to believe that Jack isn’t just speculating that this find “probably is not unique.” He knows more than he is willing to tell now. (If someday you read about chlorophyll in “ancient rocks” that was still green when it was discovered, remember that we hinted about it here in 2005.)

This whole situation has more to do with diplomacy and maneuvering than it has to do with paleontology. The fact that the paper published in Science lists the authors as “Mary H. Schweitzer, Jennifer L. Wittmeyer, John R. Horner, Jan K. Toporski” is significant in itself. Why is someone as important as Dinosaur Jack Horner listed third? Maybe he is not ready to climb out on the limb until he sees how strong it is. He has a lot more to lose than Mary does.

Fossilization

Mary has learned her lessons in diplomacy. Here’s what she said to a British television crew.

"This is fossilised [British spelling] bone in the sense that it's from an extinct animal but it doesn't have a lot of the characteristics of what people would call a fossil," she told the BBC's Science In Action programme [British spelling].

"It still has places where there are no secondary minerals, and it's not any more dense than modern bone; it's bone more than anything."

Dr Schweitzer is not making any grand claims that these soft traces are the degraded remnants of the original material - only that they give that appearance.

She and other scientists will want to establish if some hitherto unexplained fine-scale process has been at work in MOR 1125, which was pulled from the famous dinosaur rocks of eastern Montana known as the Hell Creek Formation. 2 [emphasis supplied]

In other words, despite the fact that it doesn’t look fossilized, it must be fossilized because it is 68 million years old. Therefore, she doesn’t claim that she found unfossilized bone. She claims she has found a new form of fossilization! But given what happened to her in Montana, we can’t really blame her. Sometimes one has to say what one has to say in order to keep a job and get the information published. We are glad she chose to give this song-and-dance rather than to keep her discovery secret.

Furthermore, she never states the obvious importance. That is, the most likely reason the bones aren’t fossilized is that they aren’t anywhere near 68 million years old. Instead, she gives a different reason (which we will see later) for the importance of the find.

A newly discovered specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex [Museum of the Rockies (MOR) specimen 1125] was found at the base of the Hell Creek Formation, 8 m above the Fox Hills Sandstone, as an association of disarticulated elements. The specimen was incorporated within a soft, well-sorted sandstone that was interpreted as estuarine in origin [that is, from sand deposited at the mouth of a river]. Although some bones are slightly deformed or crushed, preservation is excellent. MOR 1125 represents a relatively small individual of T. rex, with a femoral length of 107 cm, as compared to the Field Museum (Chicago) specimen (FMNH PR2081) that has a femoral length of approximately 131 cm. On the basis of calculated lines of arrested growth (LAG), we estimated that this animal was 18 ± 2 years old at death. 3

Apparently, this is not the 1990 specimen.

When I was on the 1999 dinosaur dig, I noted that the “soft, well-sorted sandstone” was softer than the dirt in my back yard. Granted, the dirt in my back yard is pretty hard, but I still had trouble referring to stuff I was digging with a spoon and a broom as “rock.” When I mentioned this to a doctoral student in paleontology, she said she used to refer to it as “sediment,” but was admonished by her thesis advisor that it was 65 million years old, and therefore had to be “rock.”

Many of the dinosaur vessels contain small round microstructures that vary from deep red to dark brown (Fig. 2, F and G). The vessels and contents are similar in all respects to blood vessels recovered from extant ostrich bone (Fig. 2H). Aldehyde-fixed dinosaur vessels (Fig. 2I) are virtually identical in overall morphology to similarly prepared ostrich vessels (Fig. 2J), and structures consistent with remnants of nuclei from the original endothelial cells are visible on the exterior of both dinosaur and ostrich specimens (Fig. 2, I and J, arrows). 4

In other words, they found dried blood in the blood vessels in the dinosaur bone, just like one would find in a modern ostrich bone. This is no different from what she reported in 1996. Back then, she had to publish it in a popular magazine, because the scientific community was unwilling to accept it. Now the same thing is reported in the prestigious journal Science. What changed?

Mary found a way to make her paper acceptable by making the following statement:

Under scanning electron microscopy (SEM) (Fig. 3), features seen on the external surface of dinosaurian vessels are virtually indistinguishable from those seen in similarly prepared extant ostrich vessels (Fig. 3, B and F), suggesting a common origin. 5

Since evolutionists are trying so hard to prove that birds evolved from dinosaurs, any evidence of similarity is eagerly accepted. So, the article in Science dwells heavily on the similarity between dinosaur bones and bird bones, without ever mentioning the obvious time problem.

Furthermore,

If scientists can isolate proteins from the material, they may be able to learn new details of how dinosaurs lived, said lead researcher Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University. 6

Don’t Mention Time

Nowhere in the article did she ever mention that the presence of soft tissue in these dinosaur bones might be evidence that dinosaurs lived much more recently than 65 million years ago.

Since unfossilized dinosaur bones are being found more commonly, and frozen mammoths with flesh still on the bones are well-known, it has become impossible for evolutionists to deny the discoveries. So, they see without seeing. That is, they proclaim it to be a previously unknown form of fossilization, or simply accept the fact that organic material can survive for millions of years given the proper conditions.

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Footnotes:

1 http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050324/ap_on_sc/t_rex_tissues (Ev)
2 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4379577.stm (Ev)
3 Mary H. Schweitzer, Jennifer L. Wittmeyer, John R. Horner, Jan K. Toporski, Science, Vol 307, Issue 5717, 25 March 2005, 1952-1955, “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex” (Ev)
4 ibid.
5 ibid.
6 http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/03/24/ rex.tissue.ap/index.html (Ev)