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Media bias hides the significance of Alaskan hadrosaur finds

Unpermineralized dinosaur bones—problem for millions of years

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Published: 20 October 2015 (GMT+10)
Ugrunaaluk-kuukpikensis-skull
Cranial reconstruction of the northernmost known dinosaur, Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis. (Image courtesy Hirotsugu Mori et al.)

“If Noah’s Flood really happened, then why don’t we see any evidence for it?” a skeptic might ask. In today’s era of mass-media disinformation, this type of question is hurled at Bible-believers daily. The answer is quite simply this: evidence for Noah’s Flood is everywhere, but it is not reported as such by mainstream secular sources. A recent Associated Press article posted on the Guardian website provides us yet another perfect example of how evidence can be hidden in plain sight and presented in a completely dishonest way.

The Liscomb bonebed is in the Prince Creek Formation in northern Alaska. A report by a team of scientists who’ve been excavating in this area detailed what they claim is a new type of hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur), which they named Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis. It was called “saurolophine”, meaning a member of the Saurolophine subfamily that includes the genus Saurolophus. The Associated Press immediately published an online article about the paper.1 but curiously, a very important detail was omitted: the bones are not fossilized!

Here is an excerpt from the original paper:

When the scientists say that the bones are “typically … unpermineralized,” what they mean is that we are not dealing with fossils, but comparatively ‘fresh’ dinosaur bones.
The hadrosaurid remains are almost entirely disarticulated, show little evidence of weathering, predation, or trampling, and are typically uncrushed and unpermineralized (Fiorillo et al. 2010; Gangloff and Fiorillo 2010).2 [emphasis mine]

Permineralization refers to the most common process of fossilization where the spaces in the bones are filled by minerals and the remains are turned to stone. So, when the scientists say that the bones are “typically…unpermineralized,” what they mean is that we are not dealing with fossils, but comparatively ‘fresh’ dinosaur bones (quibbles about the definition of ‘fossil’ notwithstanding). One might think this would be newsworthy information! But quite to the contrary, the AP article reported the findings in this way:

A paper published on Tuesday concluded that fossilized bones found along Alaska’s Colville river were from a distinct species of hadrosaur …1 [emphasis mine]

Not only did the fact that they were unfossilized not make it into the article, but it actually states falsely that the bones were fossilized. You can be sure that almost none of the people who read that online article will take the time to go back and check its accuracy against the original published paper. It would also be naïve to assume that this is an isolated incident. The preconceived notions of those both in academia and the media work to skew and misrepresent the evidence when it doesn’t fit into their Darwinian worldview, which is presupposed a priori when interpreting finds from the field.

This bonebed was discovered by geologist Robert Liscomb in 1961, as the AP article relates. It continues, “Liscomb thought they came from mammals. They remained in storage for about two decades until someone identified the fossils as dinosaur bones …”1 This is true enough, but the critical point of why these fossils were initially thought to be mammalian is again omitted. Liscomb assumed they were recent bison bones because they were not fossilized.3 So strong was the assumption that these must be recent deposits that it took 20 years for them to be properly identified. Why didn’t the article clue the readers in on this important piece of the puzzle?

Preserved by Deep Freeze?

At this point, a rebuttal seems to be available: since these bones were found frozen, could they not have been preserved by the cold? While one could debate whether even freezing temperatures could maintain unfossilized bones for such long spans of time, that debate is unnecessary here, since this area would have been a much warmer climate at the time the dinosaurs lived.1 The AP article even relates a quote from one of the paper’s authors saying, “It was certainly not like the Arctic today up there—probably in the 40s (five to nine degrees) was the mean annual temperature.”1 However, they noted that it would be different from the tropical climate in which most dinosaurs are thought to have flourished.

Even under the most ideal conditions, the laws of chemistry would predict that such fresh, unfossilized bones decay and disintegrate over the vast eons of time proposed.

Considering that the authors are stating an age for this bonebed of around 69 million years, how could these bones have survived unfossilized? No one seems to be venturing even to pose the question, let alone providing any satisfactory answers. Even under the most ideal conditions, the laws of chemistry would predict that such ‘fresh’, unfossilized bones decay and disintegrate over the vast eons of time proposed.

This same phenomenon has been cropping up again and again in recent years, with the find of red blood cells, squishy, flexible tissue, and proteins and DNA inside dinosaur bones stunning the scientific world. Yet, rather than simply admitting that the evidence contradicts their worldview, the evolutionary scientists keep grasping for new ways out of this sticky problem. The most recent of such attempts is to claim that an iron-rich solution might have preserved these cells (rebutted by CMI in Dinosaur soft tissue)—although there is no indication that this explanation is being invoked in the case of the hadrosaur bones.

The Flood Explains the Evidence

Though the evolutionary community is powerless to explain how dinosaur bones could remain unfossilized over vast eons of time, this evidence poses no problem for the biblical creationist. Indeed, a clue is given in the original paper: “The bonebed is posited to reflect a mass mortality event associated with overbank flood deposits (Gangloff and Fiorillo 2010), which could have resulted from rapid snowmelt from the then-rising Brooks Range to the south (Fiorillo et al. 2010).”4

So, what we have is this: ‘fresh’ dinosaur bones have been found which appear to have been laid down as part of a flood which killed a mass of creatures simultaneously. This fits absolutely perfectly with what we would expect to find if the Bible’s history were true. Noah’s Flood explains the evidence!

But in this case, it didn’t bury the carcass immediately, unlike with many dinosaurs, as shown by their death pose. Rather, the carcass was severely ripped apart by the raging waters, as shown by the “entirely disarticulated remains,” i.e. the bones were all separated at their joints.

It’s clear to all whose minds are unclouded by the dogma of long ages that the comparatively short history of Earth provided to us in the Bible is much more consistent with the evidence than the views championed by today’s establishment.

Update, 1 November 2016: There has been some dispute about the claims in the original peer-reviewed journal article, Mori, H. et al., Ref. 2.; in the same journal, one of the authors cited in that paper, Anthony Fiorillo, commented:

… In their section on “Geologic setting and taxonomic composition”, the authors state “The hadrosaurid remains are almost entirely disarticulated, show little evidence of weathering, predation, or trampling and are typically uncrushed and unpermineralized.” … It is puzzling that Mori et al. (2016) state the bones are “typically uncrushed and unpermineralized” because these bones are indeed permineralized. As a co-author of the two papers that are being misused, several colleagues have now contacted me requesting clarification on the state of fossilization of dinosaur bones from northern Alaska. The Mori et al. (2016) paper serves as a reminder that scientists are not only obligated to provide the supporting data for their conclusions, they are also obligated to cite their sources accurately.5

Mori et al. replied:

… In our generalized description of bone preservation, we used the modifier “typically” in describing the degree to which bones are uncrushed and permineralized. We did not contend that bones are never uncrushed or permineralized. We recognize that the bones are ferruginous in color 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. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. …6

So as usual with scientific claims, caution is warranted (cf. Hanging Loose). With this issue, as long as Mori et al. are standing by their claim in peer-reviewed literature, CMI is entitled to present this as current evidence. If they retract, then we will do so as well.

References and notes

  1. Fossils of new duck-billed, plant-eating dinosaur found in Alaska, theguardian.com, 22 September 2015. Return to text.
  2. 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.
  3. Helder, M., Fresh dinosaur bones found, Creation 14(3):16–17, 1992; creation.com/fresh-dinosaur-bones-found. Return to text.
  4. Mori, H. et al., Ref.2, 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. The creationist geologist John Whitmore cautioned about earlier similar claims, “From our results thus far, the bones should not be referred to as ‘unfossilized’.” ‘Unfossilized’ Alaskan dinosaur bones?, J. Creation 19(3):66, 2005. Return to text.

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