This latest Daily (pseudo)Science Update from the Institute for Creation Research, Fossil Pigment Paints Long Ages into a Corner, is the third in four days to be about organic materials in fossils, and the fourth of four to be about fossils in general. As such, I’m going to make this a quick one, as I’ve said enough about this kind of thing for the week. Go and read Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies, Soft Tissues are Back!, and From Dinosaurs to Ice Age Plants for more information here.
This article is about pigments being found preserved in a fossil of Confuciusornis sanctus (reconstruction pictured above). At 120 million years, this fossil is much older than the two previous ‘soft tissue’ fossils – the 68 million year old dinosaur and the 13,000 year old trees – but much younger than yesterdays eye impression, at more than 500 million years.
The source is a study in Science, Trace Metals as Biomarkers for Eumelanin Pigment in the Fossil Record, which used “synchrotron x-ray techniques” to search for trace metals that are part of – and can remain after the decomposition of – pigments in fossils. The idea is to use this to discover the patterns that these pigments were in. Brian Thomas’ entire article appears to be based on the assumption that they have found the pigments themselves, however, all the study was looking for is the trace metals (such as calcium) that the pigments were made of. According to the abstract, these “[m]etal zoning patterns may be preserved long after melanosome structures have been destroyed.”
In any case, Brian Thomas has no evidence that the pigments couldn’t have survived all those years (though they probably didn’t, considering that we need this technique to even find evidence of them), and merely goes on about it being “common sense” that they couldn’t have survived. I would say that it’s “common sense” that the raw materials of pigments should survive long after the molecules themselves have decayed whether or not they could have survived. It should be pointed out that this method would show no difference if the pigments were still there or not, only the metal atoms that help make them up. And, as usual, if the fossils were young, we’d have no trouble at all in finding preserved pigments, without resorting to these kinds of methods.
It seems that the reason for Mr Thomas’ absence last week was that he was making a list of “Published Reports of Original Soft Tissue Fossils”, of which this is the last. I can already see an inaccuracy on the list: a Mosasaur is listed at “968-65MY” – I’m pretty sure that the ‘9’ is a typo, in the circumstances. The list is an unselectable or clickable image – somebody needs to tell these people about maps – which doesn’t contain the names of the studies, only authors, dates of publication and journals, making it more difficult to find sources. Nevertheless, I think I’ll try, starting with a graph that I predict will show that the frequency of finds decreases markedly with time, as you would expect. Watch this space… (that is, blog)