Original Animal Protein in Fossils?
Skin structures, including mineralized skin, two- and three-dimensional impressions of skin scales, and original dark colored skin scale biomaterial, all from a fossil mosasaur from Kansas. Scale bars defined in Lindgren et al., 2010
Dinosaurs, marine reptiles
pterodactyls, birds, insects
lizards, frogs, salamanders
mammals, squid, fish…
I first learned about original soft tissue fossils from Creation magazine in 1997.1 What looked like red blood cells and blood vessels from inside Tyrannosaurus bone did not fit what I had been told about how fossils are millions of years old. I immediately understood that the fossil, and therefore the rock layer that held it, could be no older than thousands of years.
At that time, wise scientists warned that further investigations could either invalidate or validate the outrageous find. Now, many discoveries in special pockets around the world have validated many such original animal tissue fossils.
Sometimes ‘soft tissue’ fossils refer to impressions in rock that preserve an animal body outline, like squid, algae, or worm bodies, or of dinosaur skin or footprints. Scientists may also refer to tissue replacement by minerals like phosphate, pyrite, or carbon as ‘soft tissue preservation.’ Stable substances like rocks and minerals can last a very long time, but not so the animal’s original biochemicals.
Reliable techniques have detected chitin, chitin-associated protein, elastin, fibrin, osteocalcin, keratin, hemoglobin, DNA, and collagen, and many other such proteins in various fossils. Comparing the degree of wholeness of the fossil biochemicals to the same biochemicals from modern animal tissue reveals that the fossil material has only partly decayed. Those biochemicals should have completely decayed over any claimed period of millions of years into tiny molecules like carbon dioxide, water, or ammonia. But paleontologists keep finding original biochemistry—like finding mummified remains—encased in rock.
Take collagen, for example. It is a resilient, strand-like protein molecule that strengthens hard mineral in bones and sea (mollusc) shells, and strengthens skin and connective tissue. Collagen’s toughness explains why skin, and thus parchment, is long-lasting. But parchment does not last for even half of a million years. We know this from examining the Dead Sea Scroll parchments. After two millennia, they are quickly turning to dust.
In fact, we know from calculations based on straightforward scientific principles that collagen could last hundreds of thousands of years, and we know that it could not last multiple millions of years. In 2011, UK archaeologists and experts on bone collagen decay wrote that “it will take between 0.2 and 0.7 Ma [million years] at 10°C for levels of collagen to fall to 1% in an optimal burial environment.”2 So, collagen could last 450,000 or so years on average. If kept below freezing, it might be imagined to last one or two million years at the very most. But evolutionists agree that dinosaurs lived in a very warm climate, so in their scenario, this would vastly shrink the times—at 20°C, collagen would have decomposed below the detection limit in about 15,000 years.3,4
However, I have found many reports of collagen-containing fossils designated as tens of millions of years old. Some fossils even have skin or cartilage collagen, which is not encased in protective bone or shell mineral. A number of these reports are listed on a chart published online at the Institute for Creation Research website.5 But I am always finding more.
In the chart, I listed a T. rex collagen protein sequence described in 2005. Collagen fibres from a Psittacosaurus dinosaur were published in 2008. The most thoroughly analyzed original soft tissue fossil so far is the 2009 hadrosaur femur. It was from Hell Creek Formation in Montana, the same formation as the T. rex found in 2005. The hadrosaur’s blood vessels had plenty of original collagen. I even found a report of original dinosaur bone collagen that was found in the Gobi desert in 1966.6
We have a fine fossil fish with original collagen fibres featured on an office wall at ICR (see photo above). It is from the Green River Formation in Wyoming. How do we know it is actually original fish collagen? First, it is a different colour, hardness, and texture from the surrounding rock. One visitor said that it looks like beef jerky. Second, the paleontologists who prepared it wrote that it was collagen. To dispel any doubt, scientists used four independent techniques to directly test fossil lizard skin from the same formation as our fish.7 They wrote,
“Taken together, all the analyses performed in this study strongly suggest that the fossilized reptile skin in BHI-102B [the lizard fossil] is not a simple impression, mineralized replacement or an amorphous organic carbon ﬁlm, but contains a partial remnant of the living organism’s original chemistry, in this case derived from proteinaceous skin.”8
Although collagen cannot last longer than hundreds of thousands of years at realistic temperatures, it is right there in a supposedly 50 million-year-old lizard leg, and a supposedly 50 million-year-old fossil fish. And the dinosaur collagen fossils are supposed to be even older! Clearly, their age assignments are not correct (see box below). Original soft tissue fossils appear to be thousands of years old because that is their actual age range, just as biblical history indicates.
Does other evidence confirm thousands of years?
Those who insist that dinosaur and other fossils are millions of years old often cite radioisotope dates. Although radioisotopes appear to have undergone millions of years’ worth of decay at today’s slow rates, other data shows that those rates were dramatically accelerated in the past. First, rocks of known historical age always yield vastly inflated radioisotope ages.1 Also, the helium leakage age of granites is only six thousand years.2,3 Third, all carbon-containing Earth materials so far tested, including diamond, contain abundant radiocarbon, a tell-tale signature of material that is no more than about 50 thousand years old.4 So their radioisotope ages are all wrong.
Scientists plan to obtain radiocarbon ages of dinosaur bone. In the meantime, a 2011 study reported a radiocarbon age for a fossil mosasaur [marine reptile] bone of 24,600 years.5 Of course, the fossil could be even younger. Age estimates based on radiocarbon decay and based on tissue decay agree on a maximum age range of thousands of years.
Using natural processes such as these for age-dating always requires assumptions. In contrast, the Bible is a collection of reliable eyewitness accounts co-authored by the Creator. It holds straightforward age information, including a tight time range for Noah’s Flood, which occurred around 4300 years ago.
Most of the fossils with original soft tissues were deposited by the waters of that same Flood retreating off of continents about 4300 years ago, consistent with the observation that the tissues have not yet completely decayed.
- See articles under “Are there examples of inaccurate results obtained from the potassium/ argon dating method?” at creation.com/dating.
- See creation.com/RATE which references the major articles of the ICR-sponsored RATE research group’s breakthrough..
- Humphreys, D. R., A Tale of Two Hourglasses, Acts & Facts 35(12), 2006; icr.org/article/tale-two-hourglasses.
- Giem, P., Carbon-14 Content of Fossil Carbon. Origins 51:6–30, 2001; grisda.org/ origins/51006.htm. See also creation.com/diamonds.
- Lindgren, J. et al., Microspectroscopic Evidence of Cretaceous Bone Proteins. PLoS ONE 6(4):e194 45, 2011.
References and notes
- Wieland, C., Dinosaur blood report! Creation 19(4):42–43; creation.com/dino_blood, 1997. Return to text.
- Buckley, M. and Collins, M., Collagen survival and its use for species identification in Holocene-lower Pleistocene bone fragments from British archaeological and paleontological sites. Antiqua 1(e1):1–7, 20 September 2011 | DOI: 10.4081/antiqua.2011.e1. Return to text.
- Nielsen-Marsh, C., Biomolecules in fossil remains: Multidisciplinary approach to endurance, The Biochemist 24(3):12–14, June 2002; www.biochemist.org/bio/02403/0012/024030012.pdf. Return to text.
- Doyle, S., The Real Jurassic Park, Creation 30(3):12–15, 2008; creation.com/real-jurassic-park. Return to text.
- Published Reports of Original Soft Tissue Fossils, Institute for Creation Research, www.icr.org/soft-tissue-list. Return to text.
- Pawlicki, R., Corbel, and H. Kubiak, H., Cells, collagen fibrils, and vessels in dinosaur bone. Nature 211(5049):655–657, 1966. Return to text.
- See Thomas, B., Green River Formation Fossil Has Original Soft Tissue. ICR News; www.icr.org/article/green-river-formation-fossil-has-original, 12 May 2011. Return to text.
- Edwards, N.P. et al., Infrared mapping resolves soft tissue preservation in 50 million year-old reptile skin, Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 278(1722):3209–18, 2011. Return to text.