Soft Dinosaur Tissue Discovered in T. rex Bones

mary_schweitzerHow long could the soft tissue of a dead dinosaur last underground? Scientists now expect us to believe that it could be 68,000,000 years.

Neatly dressed in blue Capri pants and a sleeveless top, long hair flowing over her bare shoulders, Mary Schweitzer sits at a microscope in a dim lab, her face lit only by a glowing computer screen showing a network of thin, branching vessels. That’s right, blood vessels. From a dinosaur. “Ho-ho-ho, I am excite-e-e-e-d,” she chuckles. “I am, like, really excited.”

After 68 million years in the ground, a Tyrannosaurus rex found in Montana was dug up, its leg bone was broken in pieces, and fragments were dissolved in acid in Schweitzer’s laboratory at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “Cool beans,” she says, looking at the image on the screen.

It was big news indeed last year when Schweitzer announced she had discovered blood vessels and structures that looked like whole cells inside that T. rex bone—the first observation of its kind. The finding amazed colleagues, who had never imagined that even a trace of still-soft dinosaur tissue could survive. After all, as any textbook will tell you, when an animal dies, soft tissues such as blood vessels, muscle and skin decay and disappear over time, while hard tissues like bone may gradually acquire minerals from the environment and become fossils. Schweitzer, one of the first scientists to use the tools of modern cell biology to study dinosaurs, has upended the conventional wisdom by showing that some rock-hard fossils tens of millions of years old may have remnants of soft tissues hidden away in their interiors. “The reason it hasn’t been discovered before is no right-thinking paleontologist would do what Mary did with her specimens. We don’t go to all this effort to dig this stuff out of the ground to then destroy it in acid,” says dinosaur paleontologist Thomas Holtz Jr., of the University of Maryland. “It’s great science.” The observations could shed new light on how dinosaurs evolved and how their muscles and blood vessels worked. And the new findings might help settle a long-running debate about whether dinosaurs were warmblooded, coldblooded—or both.

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Further tests on the samples Mary discovered have confirmed her findings. Evidently Mary is a Christian who hates it that Young earth advocates use her findings as proof of the Biblical account of creation. But, really, how much can one suspend disbelief? How could soft tissue last 68 million years? How could it last even several thousand years? Which scenario is more plausible? Perhaps it’s too difficult for some to abandon old dogma in the face of evidence. They’d rather hold onto some tired old belief in evolution and an infinite universe than to admit that we are all God’s creatures. So sad.


2 thoughts on “Soft Dinosaur Tissue Discovered in T. rex Bones

  1. Schweitzer has tested these ideas and written several other papers that you need to read. She has done detailed comparisions of dino bones to mastodon and other more “recent” fossils. What she find is that fossils of mastodons consistently have bone tissues that are preserved in much much better condition than any dinosaur. Tissues can be easily examined for cells and nucleic acids are present. So fossils from 10,000 to a million years ago often have soft tissue preservation. In the young earth world mastodon bones and other mammal fossils are really no older dinosaur bones. If they are the same age then dinosaur bones should have awesome preservation and yet the vast majority at totally stone and only the very very very rare cases have some evidence of tissues (not real cells but well preserved remains of cells). Like I said before creationists should be shocked by how little soft tissue preservation there is in dinosaur bones because they should be expecting nearly every bone to be filled with osteocytes and remains of blood cells.

  2. Here is an interesting quote from a 2011 paper entitled “Soft Tissue Preservation in Terrestrial Mesozoic Vertebrates”…

    “The presence of vessels, intravascular material, cells, and tissues consistent in morphology, transparency, and flexibility with the same structures in living counterparts is interesting, but real information about the biology and chemistry of the once-living animal could not be addressed by morphological observation in only one specimen. The discovery of these components led to two questions:

    First, how widespread is this preservational mode?

    Second, what is the chemical composition of these materials?

    To address the first question, we conducted a survey of verte-brate material across different geological ages, taxa, and depositional settings from specimens derived from different countries and continents. We found at least cells, intravascular contents, and vessels in close to half of the specimens examined (Schweitzer et al. 2007b).

    Figure 3 shows a series of structures with micromorphology consistent with vertebrate osteocytes, recovered
    from multiple fossils of varying ages and depositional environments. Although the osteocytes derived from dinosaur fossils are naturally stained to varying degrees, all of them illustrate filopo-dia and, in most cases, intracellular materials. These microstructures are remarkably consistent across fossil taxa and consistent with minimal variation in osteocyte morphology across extant vertebrates.

    We found this preservation to be more common when the specimens were derived from sand-stone, rather than mudstone or marine settings, and we speculated that the porosity of the sands may have led to draining away of enzyme-rich suppurating fluids of decay and may have allowed relatively rapid microbially influenced cementation that prevented exogenous chemical influence (Schweitzer et al. 2007b). Thus, we showed that this preservational mode may not be as rare as previously thought and suggested that molecular studies on ancient fossils may be productive”

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