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Young Earth. Soft tissue in Dinosaur bones?

Updated on September 5, 2015

Them bones, them bones, them STRANGE BONES!

It's not the bones themselves that are strange, but what scientists have been finding recently that has caused some consternation and confusion. Stuff that shouldn't be there if the bones were as old as claimed!

We've been unearthing dinosaur remains for at least two hundred years, fossilized remains where even the bones aren't actually the bones of the animal but mineral deposits that have formed around the bones and changed the chemical structure of the bones themselves.

Over the last few years we've been finding some really surprising things about these dinosaur bones, and they were things we didn't expect to find in such old bones! Things that just shouldn't be there!

The Tyrannosaurus Rex

An artists impression of what he looked like
An artists impression of what he looked like

The Mystery


Over the last thirty years microscopes have gotten more and more powerful to the point that we can see things through the 'scope' that Darwin or even Einstein could not have imagined

In the early 1990's paleontologists noticed that with the new microscopes they were seeing things under the microscope that they hadn't noticed before.

Dr Mary Schweitzer was working on understanding if dinosaur bone structure differed according to the size of the beast, in particular she was working with a fossilized bone that was meant to be 68 million years old but was having problems getting the sliver of bone she'd shaved from the femur to stick to a microscope slide. unable to get them to stick she sought the help of a molecular biologist at her university (The university of Montana) a Dr Gayle Callis who once the slides were mounted took them as part of a display to a veterinary conference, that is until someone there pointed out the 'splotchy brown stuff' were red blood cells!

First, What is a fossil?

The first question is exactly what is a fossil? you hear talk of these things but what are they?

A fossil is where a plant or creature that once was alive has died, decomposed it's soft tissue and the hard tissue (like bones) has reacted with the rocks around to form rocks that are the shape of the hard tissue thus preserving the shape of the thing that they were. One site calls it a "real life Medusa after the mythological creature that could turn men to stone by simply looking at them.

Fossils are where the remains of living things have been turned to stone, for example Coal is fossilized wood. Diamonds are where the fossilized wood has come under immense pressure and changed it's appearance to become one of the hardest substances known to man!

Fossilized animal remains occur where the minerals in the rocks where the animal is buried react with chemicals in the bone structure causing the minerals to bond with the chemicals in the bones (bones usually lose calcium, the most common mineral in the body) to form fossils, they keep the shape of the old structure but the minerals are different, by calculating the rate at which some of these things happened sometimes we can date when the animal died.

Carbon 14 dating uses this method but Carbon is known to only have a half life of 5,700 years and cannot be used for fossils older than 50,000 years.

Another type of fossil

Petrified (fossilized) tree remains
Petrified (fossilized) tree remains | Source

What they found.

They realized that they were looking at potentially one of the biggest discoveries in paleontology ever! The discovery would literally turn everything that science and evolution had taught us in the last three hundred years on its head!

The wisdom and observations of the last three hundred years said that when an animal dies the soft tissue degrades or is sometimes eaten by microbes within a very short period of time, mostly within months or years> the absolute maximum that soft tissue can survive in ideal conditions was thought to be a few thousand years, possibly a million at absolute crazy maximum, yet here they were looking at something known to be sixty five million years old!

When Dr Schweitzer took it to her boss he gave the simple advice


Truth was they knew what they'd found would cause a sensation, it's the kind of thing that makes or breaks the careers of those associated with it! Literally the ability to turn a whole science discipline on its head and show the established teaching of the last three hundred years to be wrong! They trod very carefully and worked diligently to make sure that what they had was accurate and beyond question.

What was found?

The actual tissue found in the Dinosaur bone
The actual tissue found in the Dinosaur bone | Source

What Mary did

"Don't be a afraid of where your science takes you"

Where good science takes us

"Never be afraid of where science takes you"

Dr Mark Armitage

Where did Fossils come from?

2005 and Publishing

Skip forward to 2005 and another find at 'Hells creek' in Montana. A complete fossilized skeleton of an 'adolescent T Rex encased in Sandstone sedimentary rock. "Don't remove the fossil!" was the word given, " take the whole rock and ship it back to the lab." Here was the chance they'd been waiting for, a complete, perfectly preserved specimen to work on, they were not prepared for what they'd find!

What they found embedded in the Sandstone wasn't just the fossilized bones but inside the bones was soft organic tissue.

Collagen is a protein found in all living creatures that serves the purpose of binding the cells that make up the body together, collagen was there along with traces of red blood cells and 'elastin' another protein that is found in ligaments.


Let's face it, when you announce something as radical as what Dr Schweitzer did you are going to create a firestorm! And that's exactly what happened, the young Earth creationists claimed it proved their view, others claimed that the research was flawed and the 'red splotches' could be explained as later bacterial contamination cum secretions that caused the 'staining'

The problem is that Collagen and Elastin are both organic proteins and the established wisdom is that organic material decomposes within a matter of months after death, yet here they were after sixty five million years, still around and still recognizable!


The Firestorm, putting out the fire!

As soon as they went to press the scientific community was ablaze with dispute. The main thought at the time was that the samples must have been contaminated somehow and the things she was seeing were later bacterial infections that had secreted and then died out.

Mary and the team re-ran all their tests and confirmed their original findings that they were red blood cells, collagen and elastin!

They went further and started to experiment with how they could have possibly been preserved and came up with some form of explanation.

Inside each red blood cell are four Iron atoms, each of these atoms are held in place by four nitrogen atoms that are then surrounded by sixteen carbon and nitrogen (alternating) atoms creating the molecule of Hemoglobin. When we breathe in the Iron atom is literally turned on to attract the Oxygen atoms that stick to the structure while they are transported to where they are needed. On arrival the Iron atom is then somehow (no one knows how or why this works) turned off and the Oxygen is released. If the Iron was to make contact with the oxygen then one of the most corrosive substances in existence would form and literally dissolve our bodies from the inside within seconds, but it doesn't!

At death the structure begins to break down and dissolve, the iron is released and on contact with air accelerates the process, but Mary and her team realized that if the iron was to be released without Oxygen being present then the Iron would act as a preserving agent and could preserve the organs.

They did experiments with Ostrich blood (as some of the collagen found was similar in structure to Ostrich collagen) and found that body organs could be preserved for up to two years this way and still be recognizable, but that's a long way from the sixty five million years!

In 2008 they released their paper in reply to the critics that answered them and showed that the original findings were accurate and such things were possible.

The firestorm is still raging in scientific circles with the young earth creationists claiming that Mary's work 'proves their view' while others still trying to claim that they were flawed samples and still others willing to admit that her work was right but the fossils somehow lay in a vacuum for millions of years and preserved that way (not sure which takes more faith)

Look at both sides

Top Scientists address the problems with evolution

The ongoing debate

The debate has been raging since that time, but some scientists have started to go back and look at the data to see if they can make sense of some of what was coming out of the labs.

The explanation that has been given would hold true in certain very special circumstances where the specimen met certain requirements, they would be as follows.

1). The specimen was buried before oxygen had time to react with the decaying body (a matter of days if not hours)

2). It remained entombed, totally sealed for Millions of years in an airtight container of rock!

3). No microbes able to get at the specimen for those millions of years

These three things are unlikely to have occurred on a large scale and at most you'd expect to find one or two specimens like this, but scientists have been going back over the records and found not hundreds but literally thousands of fossils of all kinds of dinosaurs with blood vessels still preserved in them. Not only that but there is a twist. See this wasn't new, there is another creature where the same thing has been found!

That other creature

Blood and soft tissue have also been found in Egyptian Mummies
Blood and soft tissue have also been found in Egyptian Mummies

The other creature

is Man!

Soft tissue has been found in the mummified remains of early Egyptian Mummies from the 4th Dynasty onwards . That puts them at around five thousand years ago. It was also found in the Tyrolean Iceman (a hunter believed to have met his end five thousand years ago while hunting in what is now the Tyrol in the Western part of Austria bordering on Lichtenstein and Switzerland)

We know that Soft tissue can be traced back that far, and maybe in exceptional circumstances back further but there are literally thousands of samples claimed to be millions of years old some of which were 'Crap' fossils (as described by the Imperial College researchers in London describing their samples that had sat for a century in Museum vaults before they tested them!) that are turning up blood vessels and soft tissue that just should not be there, but to raise the issue that there might be another explanation could get you fired no matter how respected a scientist you are!

Do these sample point to a sixty million year old earth? To believe that you have to make four pretty wild steps of faith.

1). You have to accept that the Dinosaurs died and were buried within a few days of their death (literally thousands of them naturally occurring).

2). You have to believe that they were hermetically sealed by natural processes within that space of time (and in a way that we still can't replicate!)

3). You have to claim that no microbes could get to them.

4). You have to claim that the sandstone acted as one way porous material to drain the liquids of the bodies away without allowing water back the other way, and to do this for millions of years!

Is this even possible? or is there another explanation? That they didn't live all that long ago!

Did you know about this?

Is the idea of soft tissue in Dinosaur bones new to you or did you already know about it?

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    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Thank you for the compliment, this hub is somewhat controversial in its subject but it's nice to have it appreciated.


    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 

      3 years ago

      stunning visual aids befitting the topic

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I agree, it's a little of both in who is right and wrong!

      The scientist knows that science doesn't have all the answers, unfortunatly the average guy in the street thinks it does or soon will have!

      One of the things I didn't cover in the hub was that the Collagen found in the bones was very similar to that found in Ostrich bones!

      No one has found DNA in dinasaur bones and we're not talking 'Jurassic park' stuff (Mary Schweitzer explains the gargantuan task that would be) but it opens up so much debate.

      When I started these hubs I was sure I'd end up with a six day creation a few thousand years ago, now I realize I may still end up with a younger earth than present science says but more of 'intelligent design'

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      As a scientist myself, the first thing that I realized is that nothing is EVER fixed in science. There is so much that is changeable. With the Ice Ages that come every so often(this is not the first global warming, which is actually a cleansing effect), pressures upon what is under the ground change. Rudimentary ideas are still right on target, but few have taken into account that there will always be unlimited possibilities and that nothing is fixed in nature. Through my own discoveries regarding eggs, I found a feathered bird within the structure, which proves that growth continues to some degree after death, i.e., mens ears still keep growing after death. Why? Because there are still growth hormones that survive after death, just like with he dinosaurs. Never did we dream that some live that long, but they do, regarding the dinosaurs. Who is right and who is wrong? It's a little of both. In the natural word, infinite is finite in some case, and finite is infinite as with new discoveries and dinosaurs. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I totally agree! This is probably an issue that there be disagreement on, that doesn't mean we can't respect the other person's point of view.

      I also like the quote from Dr Armitage "Never be afraid of where the science takes you"

      Thanks for the visit, have a good week.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sorry it took me so long, Lawrence. I love Larry's comment, the fact that he didn't agree but still respected you enough to compliment you on the effort....we need more HP writers like that.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Fair enough. I did put some of my opinion in the hub, the science remains the same and its interesting to read the debate going on.

      There's probably a lot more work needs to be done in this area though.


    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Can't say I agree with you, but it's always interesting to look at the thought processes in varying opinions.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I learned a lot writing this hub. Its amazing how much you learn writing hubs like this. Paleo-anthropology would be fascinating.

      The fact that we now have instruments that can pick these things up is amazing in itself. Glad you enjoyed the hub. Have a great week.


    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Very nicely written hub. I have learned so much more about fossils, paleontology, and new scientific discoveries from this hub. But just to let you know, my interest is more on the side of paleo-anthropology.

      Thanks for writing and please do write more.


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