Or the Institute for Creation Research’s Brian Thomas does, at least.
In a recent blog post I mentioned that a possible reason for Mr Thomas’ recent absence is the creation of a list of Published Reports of Original Soft Tissue Fossils. Or something like that – as you will see, the list is a repository of miscellaneous pieces of anomalous data that could potentially be shoehorned into ‘disproving’ evolutionary time-scales.
I intend to give a brief overview of all the studies given, and why they don’t disprove evolution. You can either read the complete list or you can click on the studies in the picture that they made below.
You may notice that some of the headings appear like un-clickable links – they just mean that I can link to the specifically, like this.
You may notice that the image below has “Copyright © 2011 Institute for Creation Research. All Rights Reserved.” at the bottom. As always, I claim fair use, as criticism in this case.
Also, the list image has been modified since I downloaded it and uploaded it here. For example, number 31 had (and still has below) a typo, where is says ‘968-65 MY’. This has since been corrected to ’65-68MY’. There may be other changes. As such, any inaccuracies I point out below may no longer be unfixed.
If you can’t be bothered to read the lot you can skip to the summary. But no commenting on what you haven’t read…
NB: The headings of each section are the titles of the papers
Authors: H. Paul Buchheim and Ronald C. Surdam, Department of Geology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071
ICR Description: Catfish fatty fin in Green River
Comment: An Answers in Genesis article mentions this, quoting the full paper as saying of the Catfish: “Preservation is excellent. In some specimens, even the skin and other soft parts, including the adipose fin, are well preserved.” The case hinges over the definition of ‘preserved’. I would say that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the tissues are actually still there and soft. As I don’t have access to the entire article, I can’t say to what degree it is a quote mine. All I can say is that there is no mention of soft tissue in the abstract, and if the study was truly the first example of impossibly old soft tissue then there would certainly be more information available in a quick google search…
Authors: Gerard Muyzer, Philip Sandberg, Marjo H.J. Knapen, Cees Vermeer, Matthew Collins and Peter Westbroek, various
ICR Description: Osteocalcin in a seismeosaur bone
Comment: Interesting… It should be worth noting that, as with the Schweitzer dinosaur stuff, the authors of that paper are also suggesting how the protein could survive, this time having done actual experiments that demonstrate how different circumstances – such as being close to the bone – can wildly change protein survival rates. It is not clear that the protein could not have survived the time.
Apparently ancient DNA has been reported from amber-preserved insects many millions of years old. Rigorous attempts to reproduce these DNA sequences from amber- and copal-preserved bees and flies have failed to detect any authentic ancient insect DNA. Lack of reproducibility suggests that DNA does not survive over millions of years even in amber, the most promising of fossil environments.
This casts doubt over whether this, or any other ancient DNA finds are real. Contamination of such finds is the main problem. In short, it has since been found that an excitement over the discovery of this old DNA was premature.
Authors: Jeffrey L. Bada, Xueyun S. Wang, Hendrik N. Poinar, Svante Pääbo and George O. Poinar, Various
ICR Description: Unaltered amino acids in amber insects
Comment: More amber… This particular study did tests on insects trapped in amber for times ranging from the 130 million years given right down to less than a hundred years. They determined that in amber the natural decay and modification of amino acids is reduced significantly over that in a test tube, hardly an argument against an old earth…
And, for that matter, since when are amino acids ‘soft tissue’? You can make them abiogenically, for goodness sake (not that that would affect the results here).
NB: This paper says that their “conclusion is consistent with the reported successful retrieval of DNA sequences from amber-entombed organisms.” As I mentioned above, these reports were premature. But, if it ever turns out that we do find such DNA, it seems that it may not be so impossible. Whether we do or don’t, this paper stands on its own.
Authors: Woodward, SR, NJ Weyand and M Bunnell, Department of Microbiology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602.
ICR Description: Dinosaur DNA from hadrosaur bone
Comment: While the list gives ’65MY’, the abstract talks about eighty million year old bone fragments. I’m not sure which it is, but I do know that this is one of the other ancient DNA studies that has since been discredited as contaminated. As this article says:
The need to authenticate results became obvious in the mid-1990s when a series of high-profile studies were shown to be unrepeatable. For example, DNA reputed to come from a dinosaur was actually contamination by a human mitochondrial gene insertion in the nucleus
It gives this as a source, but I can’t see the meat of the letter as they only give the first page out free (it’s the last one on the page, and it goes on to the next).
Authors: RJ Cano and MK Borucki, Biological Sciences, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo 93407, USA.
ICR Description: Live bacteria spores from amber
Comment: Bacteria are hardy, especially in spore form. We have already seen that amber is a wonderful place for things to survive – thus it is not particularly suprising that bacteria can do it. If, on the other hand, all amber was less than 6000 years old in accordance with Genesis, we would expect bacteria to be found in all amber. If it comes down to it, the same thing could be applied to pretty much everything in the list…
According to number 39, this has since been independantly replicated.
Authors: Mary H. Schweitzer, Mark Marshall, Keith Carron, D. Scott Bohle, Scott C. Busse, Ernst V. Aarnold, Darlene Barnard, J. R. Horner, and Jean R. Starkey, various
Link: full text
ICR Description: Hemoglobin fragments in T. rex bone
Comment: This is the first of the Dr Mary “[Creationists] treat you really bad” Schweitzer papers on the list. From what I can tell – as I mentioned before, I’m not entirely certain about this – while her more recent soft tissue finds may stand up, this earlier one, of apparent hemoglobin, doesn’t.
Assuming that it does for the minute, the finds consist of “heme-containing compounds and or hemoglobin breakdown products” – we are talking again about the original material still being there, but the full molecule having long since decayed.
However, more recent studies suggest that this (and possibly the collagen that I have talked about before, but I’m not sure) are the result of bacterial ‘biofilms’ which they demonstrate how to make, comparing the material from fossils with the films they grew in the lab from pond water. They seemed to conclusively show that not only could the modern films reproduce the features found by Schweitzer et al, but they were more closely related to each other than the fossil material was to what it was thought to be.
Authors: Russell H. Vreeland, William D. Rosenzweig, Department of Biology, West Chester University, West Chester, Pennsylvania 19383, and Dennis W. Powers, Consulting Geologist
ICR Description: Live Bacteria from halite deposit
Comment: Surprisingly, this does seem to be genuine, and not a contaminant. While this is extremely interesting, I can say that this doesn’t help the Creationists either. The bacteria comes from an evaporite deposit in Texas from the Permian period. The problem is that the deposits were formed when the sea level dropped dramatically, cutting off some seas which then evaporated, leaving behind salt deposits like the one that this bacterium was found in. Aside from the sea level dropping at at time when, according to your standard flood chronology, it should have been rising or staying the same (the permian is inescapably in the middle of all flood chronologies that attempt to match to geological features, and far too far from the end for the sea levels to be dropping) it should be pointed out that the floodwaters would not have left behind so much salt in the event of evaporation.
In short, this is not necessarily inconsistent with an old earth (as I said, bacteria are hardy) but the deposits that the bacteria was found in does not help YEC biblical literalism at all…
Note: The paper I found is not the same as the paper that the list cites, it is a slightly later paper by the same people on the same topic. The one in the list is was presented at a meeting, the one I give is from nature.
9. Very similar strains of Halococcus salifodinae are found in geographically separated Permo-Triassic salt deposits:
Helga Stan-Lotter, Terry J. McGenity, Andrea Legat, Ewald B. M. Denner, Kurt Glaser, Karl O. Stetter and Gerhard Wanner, various
Link: full text
ICR Description: Live Bacteria from seperate rock salts
Comment: Frankly, same as above. I can’t find anything much about this specifically, but I can find a paper from 2007 that did the same kind of thing (admittedly by Vreeland, author of the previous), which cites this, apparently as how it had been doen before. This suggests that the extraction of Bacteria from salt crystals has become old hat, as the 2007 paper is not on the list.
10. Rare soft tissue preservation showing fibrous structures in an ichthyosaur from the Lower Lias (Jurassic) of England:
Authors: Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, ul, Profsoyuznaya 123, Moscow 117868, Russia
Link: abstract, full text
ICR Description: Ichthyosaur skin
Comment: Brian Thomas has apparently misread this paper, as it clearly says that, while there is not enogh of the material to do proper analysis on, it is “consistent with replacement by calcium phosphate.” That is to say, like most fossils, the original material has been ‘mineralised’ and replaced by another. This is perfectly ordinary, and what normally happens. There is no suggestion that the original material remains.
Authors: Mary H. Schweitzer, John A. Watt, Recep Avci, Catherine A. Forster, David W. Krause, Loren Knapp, Raymond R. Rogers, Iwona Beech and Mark Marshall
Link: First page (image), abstract
ICR Description: Keratin in Madagascar Cretaceous bird
Comment: Keratin, as you might be aware, is the substance that helps make up “hair, nails, claws, scales and feathers” (from paper). It is exceedingly tough, rivaled only by chitin. The idea is that, while all thoses things have been found a millin times before, Schweitzer et al appear to have found some of the remnants of the original material in some fossils. And? I fail to see what is so amazing. Nor can I find anything much in the way of followup…
12. Scanning Electron Microscope Study of Mummified Collagen Fibers in Fossil Tyrannosaurus rex Bone:
Authors: Mark Armitage, Creation Research Society
Link: full text
ICR Description: T rex. collagen SEM scans
Comment: This is from the ICR’s sister organisation, the Creation Research Society, and their allegidly ‘peer reviewed’ (thatt is, by other creationists) journal, the CRS quarterly. Armitage has appearently taken a Scanning Electron Microscope to an old T.rex hip bone, a twenty year old human bone and a 200 year old human bone.
That last one is interesting as it is from “Moab Man,” a “controversial find of around ten human skeletons found after bulldozing in a mine whose rock dated to the Early Cretaceous period, about 140 Ma.” These used to be used by creationists to claim that humans and Dinosaurs coexisted, but they have evidently since relented under the weight of overwhelming evidence that the find is simply Native American burial.
What Armitage apparently found is that the 20 year old human hip bone and the T. rex hip bone both have “intact, mummified microscopic collagen fibers and other ultrastructural features within compact bone.” “Moab Man,” however, did not, but the bones contained “burrowing insect remains.” He concludes from this that the dinosaur bones were “rapidly preserv[ed] in the absence of decomposers.”
Now, every one thinks that for bones to fossilise they generally need to buried quickly and away from animals that might eat them. But you cannot claim from this that the bones must be young. Armitage also provides no evidence beyond their appearance that the features found are the original molecules, doing no chemical tests or similar.
If finding Collagen and other proteins really was this easy, I don’t think there would have been nearly as much trouble over Dr Schweitzer’s finds.
Authors: C.L. Greenblatt, J. Baum, B.Y. Klein, S. Nachshon, V. Koltunov and R.J. Cano
Link: abstract, first page
ICR Description: Live (non spore) bacteria in amber
Comment: Basically the same as the previous bacteria finds, except this particular type does not form spores that can help survival in tough conditions. However, the paper says that they have:
evidence supporting the view that these (and related modern members of the genus) have numerous adaptations for survival in extreme, nutrient-poor envi- ronments, traits that will assist in this bacteria’s persist- ence and dispersal in the environment. The bacteria’s ability to utilize succinic acid and process terpine-related compounds, both major components of natural amber, support its survival in this oligotrophic environment.
This does suggest that the survival of the bacteria is not all that extraordinary. Certainly, by this point large numbers of bacteria had been found from anceint sources.
Authors: Mary H. Schweitzer, Jennifer L. Wittmeyer, John R. Horner and Jan K. Toporski, various
Link: abstract, full text
ICR Description: T. rex soft tissue
Comment: On the one hand, the PLoS one paper may disprove this, or, alternatively if it doesn’t, I believe that I’ve said my peice on this topic elseware, in Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies and Soft Tissues are Back!
Authors: Maria E. McNamara, Patrick J. Orr, Stuart L. Kearns, Luis Alcalá, Pere Anadón and Enrique Peñalver-Mollá
ICR Description: Soft frog, intact
Comment: Despite the ICR’s description of the frog being soft an intact, what was infact found was bone marrow in the form of an organic residue. The abstract also mentioned that:
Specimens in which bone marrow is preserved vary in their completeness and articulation and in the extent to which the body outline is preserved as a thin film of organically preserved bacteria.
I don’t know if that counts. I will say that this is only 10 million years, in comparison with the much older finds that aren’t quite as impressive as they find less of the stuff.
Authors: Mary Higby Schweitzer, Zhiyong Suo, Recep Avci, John M. Asara, Mark A. Allen, Fernando Teran Arce and John R. Horner
Link: abstract, full text
ICR Description: T. rex collagen
Comment: Schweitzer again. See above.
ICR Description: Bloody frog bone marrow
Comment: Appears to be a repeat of 15 – same page number’s in the journal and everything, just given a different date. Somewhat better description.
18. A unique cross section through the skin of the dinosaur Psittacosaurus from China showing a complex fibre architecture:
Authors: Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal Private Bag X54001, Durban 4000, Republic of South Africa
Link: full text
ICR Description: Psittacosaurus skin
Comment: Again, the “preserved tissue” has been mineralized – that is, properly fossilised and none of the original material remains.
Authors: Jakob Vinther, Derek E.G Briggs, Richard O Prum and Vinodkumar Saranathan
Link: full text
ICR Description: Feather melanocytes
Comment: The melanocytes appear to be fossilised, which wouldn’t support this ‘soft tissue’/original material stuff. I can’t tell whether the eumalanin inside is supposed to be the original or not – they don’t seem to have direct observational evidence to say how intact the polymer is in the fossil, though I do get the impression that they think it’s still there.
Another study on a similar topic says that “there is extensive evidence that melanosomes are highly resistant to chemical and physical degradation and have higher resistance to decay than the keratin substrate of feathers and hairs in a variety of physical environments.” These are solid organelles!
Authors: Mary H. Schweitzer, Wenxia Zheng, Chris L. Organ, Recep Avci, Zhiyong Suo, Lisa M. Freimark, Valerie S. Lebleu, Michael B. Duncan, Matthew G. Vander Heiden, John M. Neveu, William S. Lane, John S. Cottrell, John R. Horner, Lewis C. Cantley, Raghu Kalluri and John M. Asara
Link: abstract, full text
ICR Description: Hadrosaur blood vessels
Comment: Again, a Schweitzer. What has apparently been found is a few scattered molecules of the proteins that make up the blood vessels, and also bone matrix. The trend that I am seeing from the more recent Schweitzer studies is tha she finds the traces of the molecules, rather than the large amounts that Armitage supposidly found.
Authors: Jakob Vinther Derek E. G. Briggs, Julia Clarke, Gerald Mayr and Richard O. Prum
Link: full text
ICR Description: Purple Messel feather nanostructure
Comment: As with the previous Vinther study, what was found were fossilised melanosomes. They were preserved in a structure that is seen in modern birds that makes them iredescent. As they say in the study:
Feathers with this type of colour-producing nanostructure generally appear black with a glossy or oily iridescent sheen. Depending on the thickness of the keratin layer (from approx. 100 to over 300 nm), the iridescent colour varies in reflectance from saturated ultraviolet or blue to an oily appearance.
There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of things that couldn’t conceivably have survived 40 million years.
22. Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology:
Authors: Jens L. Franzen, Philip D. Gingerich, Jörg Habersetzer, Jørn H. Hurum, Wighart von Koenigswald, B. Holly Smith
Link: full text
ICR Description: Primate “Ida” soft body outline
Comment: They cite the famous Darwinius masillae study only to talk about a “soft body outline”? The nerve! The paper says:
A dark shadow surrounds almost the whole skeleton, incomplete only at the tail. This shadow indicates the former outline of body and fur produced as a result of bacterial activity.
I can see no mention of there being any organic material found that has survived the 40 million years without being involved in fossilisation.
23. Mineralized soft-tissue structure and chemistry in a mummified hadrosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, North Dakota (USA):
Authors: Phillip L. Manning, Peter M. Morris, Adam McMahon, Emrys Jones, Andy Gize, Joe H. S. Macquaker, George Wolff, Anu Thompson, Jim Marshall, Kevin G. Taylor, Tyler Lyson, Simon Gaskell, Onrapak Reamtong, William I. Sellers, Bart E. van Dongen, Mike Buckley and Roy A. Wogelius
Link: full text
ICR Description: Hadrosaur skin cell structures
Comment: From the abstract:
Mineral cements precipitated in the skin apparently follow original cell boundaries…
…intact proteins could not be obtained using protein mass spectrometry…
…[evidence] of survival and presence of macromolecules that were in part aliphatic…
The “skin cell structures” are clearly mineralised, and consequentially not what we’re after. The other miscellaneos organic materials found hold some promise in that department, but as usual it’s hardly disproof-of-an-old-earth type stuff.
Authors: Y. G. Jin1, Y. Wang, W. Wang, Q. H. Shang and C. Q. Cao Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Academia Sinica, Nanjing 210008, China. and D. H. Erwin, Department of Paleobiology, MRC-121, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20560, USA.
ICR Description: Fungal chitin ubiquitous in Permio-triassic
Comment: First, this study seems to be put in the wrong place in the list as they say that it’s from 2009 but infact it’s from 2000 – it should be around number 12, not 24.
As I can only see the abstract I can’t see any evidence for the ICR’s claim. The title and abstract suggest that the study has got nothing to do with chitin, and if it is mentioned it’s probably only in passing. You shouldn’t really make claims about things your reference was never intended to determine.
The list of papers that cite this article equally seem to have nothing to do with chitin, which gives me the impression that this isn’t the go-to paper on Permian-Triassic chitin, and if it does talk about chitin it references another paper on that subject, which should be in this list instead.
Authors: Philip R. Wilby, Keith Duff, Kevin Page, Susan Martin
ICR Description: Squid ink
Comment: Nothing in the abstract about the ink, but they clearly did in the full article as there are numerous news reports on the subject – here’s one, for example.
What was apparently found was a “one-inch-long black ink sac.” Either the contents or the sac itself (I’m not sure) was ground up and mixed with ammonia solution, which apparently produced a reasonable ink, “good enough to allow them to draw the squid-like animal and write its Latin name.”
Exactly what the chemical compisition of the substance was I don’t know – this is key to whether it could conceivably made to count. An important ingrediant in squid ink is melanin, and we have already seen that the organells which produce can be fossilised and the molecule itself may be able to survive/be fossilised itself (I’m not sure).
The ‘ink’ that they didn’t play with was sent elseware for chemical analysis – however I can’t find where the results for that are published or what they are. As such, no conclusions can be reasonably drawn from the material I have at hand.
Authors: Maria McNamara, Patrick J. Orr, Stuart L. Kearns, Luis Alcalá, Pere Anadón and Enrique Peñalver-Mollá
Link: full text
ICR Description: Salamander muscle, whole
Comment: An intersting study. We have the report of “organically preseved musculature,” as apposed to minerlisation, and without protection from being inside amber or a bone. They attribute it to “sulphurization of organic molecules within the tissue…a common diagenetic phenomenon…documented in various carbonate, evaporite and siliceous ooze-dominated, marine, and non-marine environments.” They predict that “careful examination of specimens will confirm that high-fidelity organic preservation of labile soft tissues is relatively common in the fossil record, particularly in lacustrine settings.”
As far as I can see, it’s not quite as impressive as “Salamander muscle, whole” makes it out to be, and it is only 18 million years old – you will note that the older things are the less people find, which is what you would expect, in the circumstances. It seems that, atleast in more recent fossils, genuine orginal-material soft tissue preservation may be reasonably common, even, especially in “lucastrine” (lake) settings. Their description of the kinds of places where the preservation processes take place – “carbonate, evaporite and siliceous ooze-dominated…environments” – is not a particularly easy one for a global flood to replicate. Ooze is not a fixture in noah’s story, as far as I can remember…
Authors: Fucheng Zhang, Stuart L. Kearns, Patrick J. Orr, Michael J. Benton, Zhonghe Zhou, Diane Johnson, Xing Xu1 & Xiaolin Wang
Link: first paragraph, full text
ICR Description: Sinosauropteryx melanosomes
Comment: See 19 and 21 – this is effectively the same thing. However, they are apparently using the discovery of the melanosomes in the protofeathers debate.
The idea is that in some early theropod dinosaurs exibit features that have been described as protofeathers. Those who would have birds not be dinosaurs think that the theropods that undiniably have feathers are really not dinosaurs, and the ‘protofeathers’ on the earlier theropods are really collagen fibres. For example in 18 it was shown that similar features in non-theropod dinosaurs were indeed (mineralised) collagen fibres.
However, in this study they have found fossilised melanosomes like those that have been found before in feathers (again, see 19 and 21) which is evidence in the other direction. This is exciting research!
(and that digression has nothing to do with whether or not this is ‘soft tissue’. As far as I can see we’re not talking about any original material here. Once again, see the previous feather entries.)
28. The integument of Psittacosaurus from Liaoning Province, China: taphonomy, epidermal patterns and color of a ceratopsian dinosaur:
Authors: Lingham-Soliar T, Plodowski G, Biological and Conservation Sciences, Biological Sciences Building, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, P. Bag X54001, Durban, South Africa
ICR Description: Psittacosaurus skin color
Comment: Lingham-Soliar and Plodowski’s counter to the above. They find melanosomes in their dinosaur aswell, and argue that that means that “decomposition of the skin releases pigments that readily permeate underlying structures” as nobody is aguing that Psittacosaurus had protofeathers. I don’t know how much direct evidence they have of the melanosomes in their fossil, and how they counter claims that the organells are in ordered arrangements, which had previously been used as part of the evidence that they were melanosomes and not bacteria as had previously been thought.
I can’t see anything that would make it a genuine impossible survival of orginal material case in this, as with the previous.
Authors: Romain Vullo, Vincent Girard, Dany Azar and Didier Néraudeau
ICR Description: Mammal hair in amber
Comment: As far as I can tell from the abstract, this is just perfectly ordinary shape-preserved-in-amber, although in this case it is in extreme detail and is of a mammal hair in the Mesoic, something that had not been found before in a state that could be analysed in the way that this specimine is apparently analysed in this paper. Otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary.
Authors: U. Bergmann, R. W. Morton, P. L. Manning, W. I. Sellers, S. Farrar, K. G. Huntley, R. A. Wogelius, and P. Larson
Link: full text
ICR Description: Archaeopteryx original tissue
Comment: So some of the original material from an exceptionally well-preserved fossil may have survived. Bear in mind that they were looking only at the metals that helped make up the ‘orginal material’ and couldn’t really say if the molecules themselves were there, as with a recent DpSU.
This has no bearing on the age of the earth or the fossils, and only on the fossilisation process. This gives us some idea of what materials leach out into their surroundings during fossilisation and which don’t. Not the kind of thing that creationists should waste their time arguing about…
Authors: Johan Lindgren, Michael W. Caldwell, Takuya Konishi, Luis M. Chiappe
Link: full text
ICR Description: Mosasaur blood, retina
Comment: I love that title – it makes it sound like they are getting important insights from a bag of bones sitting in a deck chair. Or that’s how I imagine it, anyway…
The evidence for the retina is *yawn* fossilised melanosomes, while the material that the ‘somes are imbedded in is mineralised.
We also have in other places evidence that is “suggestive of the presence of hemoglobin decomposition products, and thus indicative that the traces may represent residues of visceral organs derived from the decaying animal.” But their “SEM-EDX analysis demonstrated that the stained areas contain iron, oxygen and carbon, to suggest a partial replacement of the organic matter with either siderite or pyrite (which, in turn, may have altered to iron oxyhydroxides), i.e., diagenetic minerals commonly associated with exceptional soft tissue preservation.” So, not quite an impossible, complete original material survival case…
Authors: Julia A. Clarke, Daniel T. Ksepka, Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi, Ali J. Altamirano, Matthew D. Shawkey, Liliana D’Alba, Jakob Vinther, Thomas J. DeVries and Patrice Baby
ICR Description: Penguin feathers
Comment: Nothing so far as I can see in the abstract that consists of anything beyond that seen in 21 with regards to original material – they mention that they have found “fossilized color-imparting melanosomes” similar to those that are found in other birds, in contrast to the larger and oddly shaped ones found in modern penguins. Evolution in action!
Authors: Rodney M. Feldmann and Carrie E. Schweitzer, Department of Geology, Kent State University
ICR Description: Shrimp shell and muscle
Comment: So there are multiple Schweitzers… Worth noting.
This specimen “has been phosphatized, and the muscles of the pleon have been preserved completely enough that discrete muscle bands are discernable.” This kind of fossilisation preserves things exceptionally well, and is responsible for a number of things that have made it onto this list accidentally, I should think. See the summary for more information on this confusion.
Authors: George D. Cody, Neal S. Gupta1, Derek E.G. Briggs, A.L.D. Kilcoyne, Roger E. Summons, Fabien Kenig, Roy E. Plotnick and Andrew C. Scott
ICR Description: Chitin and chitin associated protein
Comment: These scientists have found “a molecular signature of a relict chitin-protein complex,” which sounds promising. They add by way of a possible mechanism:
Preservation of a high-nitrogen-content chitin-protein residue in organic arthropod cuticle likely depends on condensation of cuticle-derived fatty acids onto a structurally modified chitin-protein molecular scaffold, thus preserving the remnant chitin-protein complex and cuticle from degradation by microorganisms.
This sounds doable – the mechanism for the degradation of chitin aparently requires bacteria, which need to be able to access the material. There doesn’t seem to be any objection to material that survives that also surviving hundereds of millions of years. But then I could be wrong – I can’t read past the abstract.
And chitin is hard stuff, after all.
Authors: Johan Lindgren, Per Uvdal, Anders Engdahl, Andrew H. Lee, Carl Alwmark, Karl-Erik Bergquist, Einar Nilsson, Peter Ekström, Magnus Rasmussen, Desirée A. Douglas, Michael J. Polcyn, Louis L. Jacobs
Link: full text
ICR Description: C-14 date of Mosasaur (24,000 Yrs)
Comment: The C-14 date was usead as part of the proof that the collagen they found wasn’t from modern sources – it “most likely reflects bacterial activity near the outer surface of the bone”. Translating the amount of carbon into a date almost looks like an afterthought…
The collagen itself is interesting. As usual, they suggest plausible mechanisms for suvival, relating to inacessability from microbes etc. I can’t find any followup on this, though it looks reasonably solid.
Authors: N. P. Edwards, H. E. Barden, B. E. van Dongen, P. L. Manning, P. L. Larson, U. Bergmann, W. I. Sellers and R. A. Wogelius
Link: abstract (unless you are reading this 2 years+ on)
ICR Description: Lizard tail skin, Green River
Age: 40 (?) MY (paper says 50, ICR says 40)
Comment: They have found “amide and sulphur compounds” which are most likely the breakdown products of the beta keratin in the skin. They say:
A new taphonomic model involving ternary complexation between keratin-derived organic molecules, divalent trace metals and silicate surfaces is presented [in the paper] to explain the survival of the observed compounds.
That’s science for you. I could do with being able to read past the abstract, in the circumstances…
Authors: James D. San Antonio, Mary H. Schweitzer, Shane T. Jensen, Raghu Kalluri, Michael Buckley, Joseph P. R. O. Orgel
Link: full text
ICR Description: Type I collagen, T. rex hadrosaur
Comment: Covered already, in Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies and Soft Tissues are Back!.
Authors: R. A. Wogelius, P. L. Manning, H. E. Barden, N. P. Edwards, S. M. Webb, W. I. Sellers, K. G. Taylor, P. L. Larson, P. Dodson, H. You, L. Da-qing, U. Bergmann
ICR Description: Bird feather pigment
Comment: Covered in I Sense a Pattern
Authors: Erin Bilba, Wired
ICR Description: Live yeast in Amber
Comment: From Dr Raul Cano, the man who brought us number 6. We already know that amber is good at preserving things, and it is well known that yeast is capable of surviving long periods (such as in the form that it is when you buy it in the shop). In short, this is true but unsurprising. Although it might have been back in 1995 when the yeast was actually found, rather than when the guy decided to make some beer out of it later…
Note: Not the actual article that is mentioned in the list, but close enough.
Authors: Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
ICR Description: Australopithecus sediba brains
Age: 1.9 million years
Comment: I can find the Science article mentioned in the paper, but it isn’t about the brains. I uploaded it here anyway (it was on a torrent).
Anyway, new species of Australopithecus found, and a “remnant” of the brain may exist in one of the two fossils. The question of what the remnant is made of is not discussed – it could be fossilised like alto of other things that have been errornouly placed on this list, or it could be something more like the much older bone marrow from earlier.
The problem with news articles is that they wont tell you these things. They don’t think it’s important, for some reason.
Authors: Keighly News
ICR Description: Lobster shell
Comment: I have confirmationthat the shell hasn’t been phosphatised, but I don’t know what has happened. Interesting, but a lack of followup is telling. Ranks at the bottom of a short list of interesting fossils brought to the National History Museum in London. I am consequentially unable to comment further.
Authors: Cindy Card Buchholz, Rapid City Journal
ICR Description: Mosasaur cartilage
Comment: The origin of that is “There is cartilage still on the shoulder blade and on a bone called a coracoid.”
Nothing to say that this is the original tissue. It could still be mineralised
As this post has become so long I am going to write the summary seperately. You should be able to find it here shortly (or now, if I have written it by the time you read this). Subscribe!