Discovering 70,000,000 Year Old DINO-BURGERS
By Steve Cooper
Can you imagine the shock when Galileo first looked up at the crater pocketed moon or when he finally improved the telescope enough to allow him to discover the moons orbiting Jupiter?
Mary H. Schweitzer, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University can now understand the feeling behind such paradigm shifting discoveries. Her discovery came after Schweitzer had been given some fragments of T-rex fossil from famed paleontologist Jack Horner.
Horner was leading a team recovering the fossils of a Tyrannosaurus rex in a remote part of Montana’s Hell Creek formation, when they were faced with a dilemma. The thigh bone of the animal was too heavy for the helicopter. The only way to get it out was to cut it in half; an unpleasant decision for a paleontologist.
In the act of splitting the fossil some fragments were broken off and that is how Schweitzer entered the picture. Schweitzer is a close friend of Horner’s and he knew she had been questioning the idea that everything about a fossil is only rock.
What set her mind on this path was early in her paleontology work when she noticed that the fossils smelled like dead animals; something everyone else had just ignored. She correctly reasoned that organic smells mean left over organic molecules.
When Schweitzer began to explore the fossil fragments from Horner she immediately realized it was more than rock. She called out to her lab assistant, “Oh my gosh, it’s a girl and it’s pregnant.” Schweiter is not only a paleontologists, she is also a trained biologists. She knew it was female and getting ready to lay an egg because she had recognized the medullary bone, a thin layer of highly vascular bone that is found in present-day female birds only during ovulation.
As the search of the fragments continued, Schweitzer realized that she was making discoveries that would turn paleontology on its head. Soon capillaries, tissue and even blood cells began to be uncovered.
The following is a transcript of an interview of Schweitzer on MSNBC after the publication of her discovery.
SCHWEITZER All of the chemistry and all of the molecular breakdown experiments that we have done don’t allow for this. So if this material turns out to be actual remnants of the dinosaur, then yes, I think we will have to do some, certainly rethinking of the basics of the models of fossilization. (Editors note - It has now been shown to be actual dinosaur remnants- soft tissue)
ANCHOR When I was reading about this story, I was amazed that in some of the capillaries, when you went to pull them they snapped right back. Are you amazed at the quality of these remains?
ANCHOR 70,000,000 years old huh?
SCHWEITZER It’s... It’s... It just doesn’t seem possible. But yes. you can actually take the vessels and they do have internal components, so you can take a probe and kind of squeeze those things out into solution and the vessels are fine. It’s just…I can’t explain it to be honest.
Like C.S. Lewis, Schweitzer is an evangelical Christian who believes that God created the world over long ages of time, guiding evolution. Watching her on Internet videos, one can sense that she is a very intelligent person who has never lost her child like curiosity about the world. Fresh from shaking all of palaeontology, most would show at least some signs of arrogance. Instead, you see in Schweitzer, humility and even a bit of shyness.
One reporter was moved by the lack of news stories on her office wall celebrating her far reaching accomplishments. Instead was this verse from Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It seems this verse has now come true in her life.
I think it is important for Christians to realize that we can differ on many things. To know Jesus and His saving grace is not the same as knowing how He created the universe in detail. I differ with Schweiter on some areas of creation, but I am confident she knows the same Christ who I came to know so many years ago.
There are many passages in the Bible that give added dimension to Genesis. I don’t see the Biblical view of creation and the age of the Earth as simply as it is portrayed by many creationist or materialists. But whether it convinces her or not, Schweitzer’s discovery has added immense weight to the idea that dinosaurs are not as ancient as believed.
To me, it is like finding ice in a water jug left in the sun and having others claim that it had rested in the same place for ten years. I just can’t buy it. To see why, read my article to the right on Becoming a Museum “Rock Star.”
Below are photographs of tissues from the T-Rex. (I've seen less appetizing meat at Carl's Jr.)
Museum “Rock Star”
Takes Time and Luck.
We all learned it in elementary school, fossils are not really bone, they are rock. In order to experience fossilization an animal has to be quite lucky.
The thing about nature is that it is exceedingly good at recycling. So in order for an animal to make it into a museum as a fossil it has to be lucky enough to die in a way that water will cover its body very soon. Dieing in a river or lake is a good choice.
Since there is a vast army, from bacteria to vertebrates, waiting to eat even the bones, the next step is that the animal’s body must be quickly covered with sediment before everything becomes something else’s lunch.
Next, over the centuries, millennia and finally ages the sediment piles on higher and higher until the weight of the layers above create such pressure as to compress the sediment into rock.
Over the course of time, water percolates down through the sediment and slowly dissolves whatever is left of our future museum celebrity, but as it does so, it also drops off the minerals it has gathered on its way down through the rock.
This slow process eventually replaces all of the original material from the animal with molecules of calcite or other minerals, leaving solid rock in its exact shape. According to most paleontologists this is how, at long last, a museum rock star is born.
But let’s say the animal was especially lucky and there is a little flesh left over from the original bacteria’s feast; the deep layers of earth act like a radioactive oven. Any remaining proteins must now exist in a shooting gallery as they are constantly barraged with high speed subatomic particles from the Earth’s decaying radioactive material.
The heat will also do its destructive work on the proteins. You know how it is when you forget and leave those eggs frying on the burner for 70 million years, especially when you have seasoned them with uranium.