Click here to view CMI's position on climate change.

The curious case of the ‘unfossilized’ bones

An update to last year’s hadrosaur bone article


Published: 15 December 2016 (GMT+10)
Dr Hirotsugu Mori

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article detailing a recent article by Dr Hirotsugu Mori and his team, formerly a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. My article sought to draw attention to a small (but very consequential) comment made by Dr Mori as part of his published journal article, where he referred to certain duckbill dinosaur bones as “typically uncrushed and unpermineralized”.1

As I pointed out in that article, Dr Mori’s statement that the bones are unpermineralized essentially means that these bones are not fossils in the traditional sense, because they have not undergone the physical process of being turned to stone.2 This, one might think, would be a controversial and newsworthy statement— especially when coming from a secular scientific source! Obviously it could present some huge hurdles for long-age theorists to explain how bones could remain in pristine condition in a non-fossilized state for millions of years. However, the science media was calmly reporting on this new paper while completely ignoring Dr Mori’s curious statement about the condition of the bones.

After my article was posted to our website, it seemed to generate a fair amount of attention from readers at the time. But, to my surprise, one such reader contacted me by email just recently (a year later) to inform me that after reading my article, he had submitted a question to a secular science website to ask them to comment on the status of those bones. The organization had gotten back to him with an answer: they said they had contacted the author of one of the papers involved (a paper that Dr Mori had cited in his research), Dr Anthony Fiorillo, who said that the bones are permineralized.3

Serious allegations

Dr Anthony Fiorillo

Dr Fiorillo, who is the chief curator at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, is known for being one of the world’s foremost experts on the Alaskan dinosaur bones.4 His public repudiation of Dr Mori’s work did not stop there, however— he went so far as to publish a ‘comment’ on it in the same journal, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, claiming that Dr Mori “misused” his work and cited him incorrectly.5 This accusation seems to stem from the fact that Mori’s citation of Fiorillo’s paper (perhaps inadvertently) implied that the description of “unpermineralized” came from Fiorillo, rather than Mori’s own observations as a researcher. In any case, Fiorillo is claiming that the bones contain some minerals that “are commonly introduced during the permineralization process,” and on those grounds is saying that the bones should not be referred to as unpermineralized.

Dr Mori and his team did not back down. They responded to this attack by defending their description of the bones thus:

Cranial reconstruction of the northernmost known dinosaur, Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis. (Image courtesy Hirotsugu Mori et al.)

We recognize that the bones are ferruginous in color [rust-colored] reflecting some degree of iron-bearing mineral infiltration, which technically can be categorized as permineralized. However, vertebrate paleontologists typically reserve this term for cases where mineral infiltration lines the vascular canals and trabecular spaces of bones and is visible macroscopically. We are aware that some bones in the Liscomb Bonebed exhibit this type of preservation, but maintain that it occurs in a surprisingly small, currently unquantified percentage of bones.6

So what is really going on?

After learning of this borderline hostile exchange between these groups of scientists as a result of our article, I was intrigued. I wanted to see if there was any way to get to the bottom of this dispute, so I reached out to Dr Fiorillo myself by email. To my surprise, I got a response from him, and he said that Dr Mori’s team had caused confusion because of their “loose use of language.”7 When I followed up by asking him where, in his opinion, this confusion was stemming from (why had Dr Mori used this language in the first place?), Fiorillo went silent and chose not to respond.

A well-known creation scientist from Canada, Dr Margaret Helder, wrote on the phenomenon of these allegedly unfossilized bones back in the 1990s,8 so I contacted her for her comments as well. She informed me that she had first heard about these bones in 1990 while attending a lecture by Dr Philip J. Currie, who is a renowned Canadian (secular) paleontologist and museum curator specializing in dinosaurs. According to Dr Helder, Currie stated in his lecture that the Alaskan dinosaur bones in question were not fossilized, and for that reason they were misidentified as bison bones.9

Dr Helder directed me to another source: an early article written on the Alaskan bones by Kyle L. Davies in 1987 in the Journal of Paleontology. Davies, too, used interesting language to describe the bones:

The quality of preservation is remarkable. The bones are stained a dark red brown but otherwise display little permineralization, crushing, or distortion.10

Perhaps Davies, too, was afflicted with a strange desire to use ‘loose’ language, all the way back in 1987? What can account for these different scientists, over a span of nearly 30 years, describing the bones in nearly identical language?

Concluding remarks

Without being a paleontologist myself, and without being able to personally examine the bones, I am limited to the expertise of the scientists who have examined them. After looking at all the sources available, a consistent picture is emerging. It seems that these bones are indeed mostly unpermineralized, and that is an embarrassing and difficult-to-explain fact for those who maintain these bones must be millions of years old. It runs contrary to reason and common sense to think that these bones could have survived in such pristine condition in the natural elements for such an extended period.

Dr Fiorillo seems to have come under some pressure from colleagues, in part as a result of reports from creationist organizations like ours, and perhaps does not want his own reputation to be in any way besmirched by scandal. It appears he is seizing on some superficial mineral infiltration as an escape route (not all of the bones display this equally), and is doing some linguistic sidestepping of his own by calling the bones permineralized. Since Dr Mori and his team have stood by their description of the bones as being unpermineralized, and since other scientists have also gone on record saying the same, we will continue to use this as evidence against the reigning paradigm of ‘deep time’.

References and notes

  1. Mori, H. et al., A new Arctic hadrosaurid from the Prince Creek Formation (lower Maastrichtian) of northern Alaska, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 61(1):15–32, 2016, available online 22 September 2015 | doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.4202/app.00152.2015. Return to text.
  2. It must be noted that secular scientists will still call them fossils regardless of this, because according to them the bones are millions of years old, making them fossils by definition. That is, however, nothing more than assuming what you are trying to prove (circular reasoning) and playing games with words to obscure reality. Return to text.
  3. Unpermineralised dinosaur bones, askabiologist.org.uk, 29 October 2015. Return to text.
  4. Our team of experts, perotmuseum.org, accessed 5 December 2016. Return to text.
  5. Fiorillo, A.R. et al., Comment on “A new Arctic hadrosaurid from the Prince Creek Formation (lower Maastrichtian) of northern Alaska” by Hirotsugu Mori, Patrick S. Druckenmiller, and Gregory M. Erickson, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 61(1):158, 2016. Return to text.
  6. Mori, H. et al., Preservation of Arctic dinosaur remains from the Prince Creek Formation (Alaska, USA): A reply to Fiorillo (2016), Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 61(1):174, 2016. Return to text.
  7. Personal email correspondence with the author. Return to text.
  8. Helder, M., Fresh dinosaur bones found, Creation 14(3):16–17, 1992; creation.com/fresh-dinosaur-bones-found. Return to text.
  9. Personal email correspondence with the author. Return to text.
  10. Davies, Kyle L., Duck-Bill Dinosaurs (Hadrosauridae, Ornithischia) from the North Slope of Alaska, J. Paleontology 61(1):198–200, 1987. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Dire Dragons
by Vance Nelson
US $32.00
Hard Cover
Earth's Catastrophic Past
by Andrew A Snelling
US $60.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Christian R.
Something very similar to this happened before concerning soft tissue in Mary Switzer's dinosaur bones. Evolutionists were trying so desperately to demote the soft tissue to nothing more than a biofilm, only accepting it as soft tissue when they proposed a method which (supposedly) enables it to survive millions of years (of course, the method is just as bogus as any other evolutionist fairytale). I suspect something similar will occur concerning these unfossilized bones. There truly is nothing new under the sun.
Kurt C.
Once again another great article by CMI. My comment is actually from something that I read in one of your related links. In "Fresh dinosaur bones found" by Margaret Helder, Ph.D. there is the following comment:

'In 1961 a petroleum geologist discovered a large, half-metre-thick bone bed. As the bones were fresh, not permineralized, he assumed that these were recent bison bones. It took 20 years for scientists to recognize duckbill dinosaur bones in this deposit as well as the bones of horned dinosaurs, and large and small carnivorous dinosaurs. Presently William A. Clemens and other scientists from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Alaska are quarrying the bone bed.'

My question is, what was discovered about those other bones? I would imagine at some point that the excuse could be there is something unique about the Duckbill that kept it from fossilizing. But with a variety of dinosaurs in the same bed that are un-fossilized, it would be one more example of our young earth and one more thing they have to cover up.
Thanks again for all your hard work and defending the truth that sets us free!
Paul Price
Thanks for your feedback and question, Kurt. To answer this, I asked Dr Helder for her comments, and this is what she said:

It is most likely that the bones which R. L Liscomb collected were almost exclusively or exclusively Edmontosaurus bones. The site is called a low diversity site with mostly hadrosaur bones. The theropods are represented mostly by teeth and would not be noticed in a superficial collection. The Liscomb bone bed is part of a much longer deposit which stretches 100 km up to 200 km along the Colville River. Later major collecting efforts such as Gangloff and Fiorillo (Palaios 2010 v. 25 pp. 299-317) mention the horned dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus and quite a number of other organisms such as temperate to warm climate plants have been identified, but that all came later. Also with the larger number of collecting sites of course, more taxa would be expected.

About the fossilization of the other bones:

I suspect that the others are all in fact permineralized.
You might however recall also that apart from the remarks of Phillip Currie at a lecture, the Davies paper and your more recently cited paper [Mori et al], nobody to my knowledge ever specifically mentioned the condition of the Liscomb bones either.
Martin K.
Thanks for another interesting article. I do enjoy reading another viewpoint on fossils and the inconsistent interpretation that MOY ideology has on the fossil record. If anyone at Creation Ministries ever hears about someone trying to recreate the conditions to create a fossil and their relative success or failure, I would like to hear about it. I have read about some recent fossils in the "Evolution's Achilles Heel" book.
In some ways we should not be surprised that some bones haven't been completely fossilized. I am beginning to think this was meant to be to give doubt to some MOY believers and encouragement to creation science.
Tony G.
I am a regular reader of these articles and I wonder if any of you are inspired to pray for the parties in these disputes. I am not a scientist and I rely on the integrity of the writers of these articles to inform me of the science behind the Word of God. My prayer for those who have put their faith in millions of years is that the Holy Spirit who breathed life into our forefathers might once again sweep through the academic community and lead them all into the truth. Of course, they will still have freedom to choose what to believe but I'm sure they will not be won over by arguments, no matter how valid, but the God who made the world and all the universe finds nothing impossible but does wait for believers to pray and declare His great love for all. To declare that He does not desire the death of unbelievers (sinners) but that they would repent and live. Please join with me in praying in faith that the Holy Spirit would inspire preachers of love to speak of the truth of God's Kingdom in Universities the world over and would convict the hearers of the truth. Remember Jesus is Lord and works for the good in all things for those of us who believe.

Chuck R.
Thanks Paul for another article for reference on unfossilized bone information.
These finds coming to light are very useful when discussions of the supposed vast ages and showing that what we've been taught, ain't necessarily right. Your comment about not being a paleontologist is a good thing since our colleges are literally indoctrinating students into evolutionary thinking, and your fresh 'un-educated' perspective can look at these finds objectively rather than thru the filtered glasses of years of 'this is what it is' teaching .
Maybe one of your geologists would care to comment. In considering unpermineralized Dinosaur bones, I question the cementation of the lithology around them. The one source I found on the Prince Creek Formation, it says Dinosaur Bones come from a thin layer of sandstone or silty sandstone overlaid by mudstone (clay). In fact the entire formation is primarily alternating sandstone and mudstone. I found nothing to indicate how cemented the mudstone or sandstone was, but assume uncemented sandstone would have been referred to as "sand". I find it curious that unconsolidated or poorly consolidated layers would exist, and probably would only retain primarily organic bone because of weather conditions. This seems to violate several uniformatarian principles for fossil preservation, lithification/ cementation due to deep burial. Maybe Flood geology needs to reexamine why permineralization in fossils occurs at all. This seems fertile ground for a Flood explanation depending on which Flood model is used. Maybe permineralization requires significant quantities of circulating fluids, not time, and freezing temperatures soon after deposition restricted such flow, and what in the Flood model would suggest such circulation at all?
Dan M.
If the secular secularists can't agree on something as rudimentary and obvious as permineralization, (arguing over terms) how can we trust anything that comes from the secular arena? It's funny how they are not arguing that there is no un-permineralization but as to how much? If there's any, it's a big problem regardless of how much! Let's all examine the bones and find the truth of the matter instead of all the cloak and dagger! It sure seems they are trying to hide the obvious since it doesn't quite jive with their paradigm? Of course with all the other soft tissue finds in the present, it nails it for me. Obviously dinosaurs lived and died recently as stated in the bible.

Having been an Alaska resident for 32 years I know mammoths are found all over northern Alaska. So if Woolly Mammoths are found in this area, at or close to the same strata that would have even more ramifications since secularists agree mammoths lived recently, (geologically speaking). Also Michael Oard has a post flood model for climatology and extinction of the mammoths. So if the hadrosaurs are buried with mammoths in permafrost that would mean they were on the ark and survived the flood?

The religion of evolution is arching is neck and back in the death throes of extinction but that won't stop the devout from believing. I find myself in wonder at their, (secularists) blind faith and wish Christians would have that kind of faith based on the evidence.
God Bless
Paul Price
Thanks Dan. Yes, there is ample evidence that dinosaurs did survive the Flood, just as the Bible says (all the kinds of land animals would have been represented on the Ark).
Eddie C.
This is a great article and it is convincing to see how science dismisses anything that doesn't fit in the evolution paradigm. However, haven't there been more cases of unfossilized bones and even soft tissues and bone marrow found? There seems to be a huge body of evidence mounting that dinosaurs not only lived in the past few thousand years, but may have in fact been alive in small numbers in just the last few centuries. Would you say this is the best example of recent dinosaurs?
Paul Price
There is actually a whole body of evidence from a lot of different angles that shows dinosaurs are recent. Have you checked out Vance Nelson's book, Dire Dragons (linked from the sidebar of this article)?

Asking for the 'best' example is of course just a matter of opinion, but given the disputed, somewhat ambiguous nature of this particular find, I would not personally classify it as the 'best' example. But it does represent another piece of evidence for the overall picture.
Jason B.
Another excellent article! Keep them coming! I've often wondered what the next step was in this case of the Alaskan "bison bones" that have turned out to be dinosaur bones. Since no one has mentioned any radiocarbon dates of these bones, I would assume that they have not been carbon dated. However, I believe that is a next step! If the secular scientists want to put their money where their mouth is and demonstrate objectivity, they would carbon date these bones. I would suspect the carbon dates would be in the range of Alaskan mammoth radiocarbon dates. If so, the secular scientists could spin a good tale, like they're doing already. At least we'd have some more objective data to analyze. Isn't that what science is about: objective data collection and critical thinking, even if it is contrary to the consensus paradigm? I've got to give credit to Dr. Mori for standing up for the facts and his objective description of the bones as largely unpermineralized.
Paul Price
Well, the problem is that these bones are in the custody of the 'establishment', and the establishment view is that these bones are far, far too old to have any remaining carbon-14. If they are indeed mostly unpermineralized, that would imply there could be enough remaining organic material for them to potentially be carbon-dated. I suspect the results would be very interesting indeed, were that to occur. But again, that is just not going to happen! It would totally invalidate their worldview (and they would inevitably just chalk the results up to "contamination")!

The same thing came up recently with the Homo Naledi find— CMI made a public offer to pay for the cost of carbon dating the bones, but of course we were ignored.
Robert D.
Fascinating... Any chance we could get a list of fossilised bones? Would be an interesting witnessing tool...
Thanks for your hard work Mr Price :-)
Paul Price
Thanks. I presume you meant to say unfossilized bones? As far as I am aware, there does not exist any such one-stop compilation of examples. The only examples I'm aware of now are the Alaskan bones and then of course the famous cases of dino bones yielding soft tissue and blood cells.

Perhaps this is a research project you'd like to take on and submit for review? ;)
Peter N.
"When I followed up by asking him where, in his opinion, this confusion was stemming from (why had Dr Mori used this language in the first place?), Fiorillo went silent and chose not to respond."
This has unprovable assumptions re Fiorillo's alleged deliberate non-response. It may be more gentle and respectful to use wording such as: "... I received no further response from Dr Fiorillo".
Paul Price
Hi Peter. I appreciate your feedback. Given, however, that he had established successful email communication with me just moments prior, I cannot really see how his lack of response (this was many weeks ago now) could be anything other than deliberate. Keep in mind that Dr Fiorillo has now gone on record making serious accusations against another scientist, and at no point that I'm aware of has Dr Fiorillo even addressed the issue of why the bones have been described by multiple researchers as 'unpermineralized' if they are not, as he is alleging. It is suspicious to say the least.

My purpose in writing this article has nothing to do with making any kind of personal attack against Dr Fiorillo. I just want the facts about these Alaskan bones to be made public.

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.