Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies

Collagen MoleculeIn 2005, Palaeontologists lead by Mary Higby Schweitzer revealed to the world (in a paper in Science, read it here) of their discovery of ‘soft tissue’ in a bone of the ‘B. Rex’ Tryannosaurus specimen (MOR 1125), which was dug up in a 68 million year old portion of the Hell Creek formation. The proteins thought to be found included Collagen, pictured. This is pretty cool, but it seems Schweitzer had learnt from a previous announcement of hers in 1993, which seems to have since been largely discredited (I’m not too sure here). The 2005 paper admitted:

Whether preservation is strictly morphological and the result of some kind of unknown geochemical replacement process or whether it extends to the subcellular and molecular levels is uncertain.

Nevertheless, in the time since then it has been increasingly shown that the collagen from the bone is the real deal (although it could still be of bacterial origin), with — among other things — a small number of other dinosaurs having been found that show similar evidence, for example. The evidence is, apparently, so sound that Dr Schweitzer and a few others have published a study that compares the molecules of collagen themselves with those from “extant taxa”, i.e. living creatures, and discusses how the protein could have been preserved far beyond the expected length of time. Continue reading