How Old are Dinosaur Bones?

Most people assume that fossil bones like those of dinosaurs must be very, very old to have turned to stone. However, many of these bones have not been thoroughly “permineralized” (meaning the rock minerals have been deposited into all the spaces within the original bone) and that the amount of time that it takes for a bone to permineralize is highly variable since modern bones that fall into mineral springs can become permineralized within a matter of weeks.

Soft Tissue in Dinosaur Bones

bone1In 2004 the paleontologist Mary Schweitzer was examining in her lab a T-Rex bone taken from a canyon in Montana. She was shocked to discover soft, pliable tissue inside the bone! Later analysis revealed that it contained red blood cells and the unique hemoglobin protein. “This protein deteriorates very rapidly… surely if dinosaurs died millions of years ago, then any trace of this protein would be long gone. To find unfossilized dinosaur bone is already an indication more consistent with a young age for the fossils. …The evidence that hemoglobin has indeed survived:

      • The tissue was colored reddish brown, the color of hemoglobin, as was liquid extracted from the dinosaur tissue.
      • Hemoglobin contains heme units. Chemical signatures unique to heme were found in the specimens when certain wavelengths of laser light were applied.
      • Because it contains iron, heme reacts to magnetic fields differently from other proteins – extracts from this specimen reacted in the same way as modern heme compounds.
      • To ensure that the samples had not been contaminated with certain bacteria which have heme (but never the protein hemoglobin), extracts of the dinosaur fossil were injected over several weeks into rats. If there was even a minute amount of hemoglobin present in the T. Rex sample, the rats’ immune system should build up detectable antibodies against this compound. This is exactly what happened in carefully controlled experiments.

“Evidence of hemoglobin, and the still-recognizable shapes of red blood cells in unfossilized dinosaur bone is powerful testimony against the whole idea of dinosaurs living millions of years ago. It speaks volumes for the Bible’s account of a recent creation.” (Wieland, Carl, “Sensational Dinosaur Blood Report,” Creation Ex Nihilo, vol. 19, pp. 42-43, 1997.) But in 2008 evolutionists published a paper claiming that what appeared to be blood vessels was merely the result of more recent bacteria work, forming “endocasts” that followed the shape of where the original vessels lay, and that the red blood cells are actually iron-rich spheres called framboids. In May of 2009 Schweitzer’s team examined a fossil hadrosaur bone, taking extreme measures to ensure against contamination or misinterpretation. The results, published in the journal Science, bolster the original conclusion that the soft tissue (including collagens and amino acids) inside dinosaur bones is highly problematic for conventional interpretations of age.

Testing has even documented intact DNA in dinosaur bones. “However, even under the best preservation conditions at -5°C, our model predicts that no intact bonds (average length = 1bp) will remain in the DNA ‘strand’ after 6.8 Myr.” (Allentoft, M.E. et. al., “The Half-life of DNA in Bone,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B 279, 2012, pp. 4724-4733.) Paleontologists have described dozens of original, unmineralized tissues, including histone proteins and DNA in a T. Rex, bone collagen in a Jurassic Chinese sauropod, keratin protein in an Archaeopteryx bird, chitin and protein in Precambrian worm casings, etc. Yet experiments continue to confirm that such materials can last thousands, but not millions of years.

In April of 2013 the journal Nature published the report of an amazing discovery in Yunnan Province, China. Embryonic dinosaur remains contained complex organic structures. “In contrast to previous studies of organic residues based on extracts obtained by decalcifying samples of bone, our approach targeted particular tissues in situ.  This made it possible to detect the preservation of organic residues, probably direct products of the decay of complex proteins, within both the fast-growing embryonic bone tissue and the margins of the vascular spaces…. Previous reports of preserved dinosaur organic compounds, or ‘dinosaurian soft tissues’, have been controversial because it was difficult to rule out bacterial biofilms or some other form of contamination as a possible source of the organics.  Our results clearly indicate the presence of both apatite and amide peaks within woven embryonic bone tissue, which should not be susceptible to microbial contamination or other post-mortem artefacts.” (Reisz, Robert R., et. al., “Embryology of Early Jurassic Dinosaur from China with Evidence of Preserved Organic Remains,” Nature, vol. 496, pp. 210-214.)

Frozen, Unfossilized Dinosaur Bones

Tony and ron with dino specimens

Paleontologists Tony Fiorillo and Ronald Tykoski holding bones of the Pygmy Tyrannosaurus they discovered on the North Slope. Picture Credit – Shelley Kofler

In 1967 Robert L. Liscomb, a petroleum geologist working for Shell Oil Company, discovered well-preserved bones in Alaska along the Colville River. As the bones were fresh, not permineralized, he assumed that these were recently deposited, perhaps belonging to a mammoth or bison. Twenty years later scientists recognized the bones as belonging to the duckbilled dinosaur Edmontosaurus. Other bones found in this deposit belong to horned dinosaurs, and various carnivorous dinosaurs (including a pygmy Tyrannosaurus). An article on Liscomb’s bones states: “The bones are stained a dark red brown but otherwise display little permineralization, crushing, or distortion.” (Davies, Kylie L., “Duckbill Dinosaurs (Hadrosauridae, Ornithisichia) from the North Slope of Alaska,” Journal of Paleontology 61, 1987, pp. 198-200.)  Other researchers have found similar frozen dinosaur bones. For example, in 1987, while working with scientists from Memorial University on Bylot Island, just east of the northern tip of Baffin Island, a young Canadian Eskimo picked up a bone fragment. It was identified within days as part of the lower jaw of a duckbill dinosaur. (Helder, Margaret, “Fresh Dinosaur Bones Found,” Creation Ex Nihilo 14, 1992, p. 16.)

Carbon 14 Dating of Dinosaur Bones

Carbon 14 (C-14) dating is used to establish the age of skeletons, fossils, and other items composed of material that was once alive. Very precise analysis from modern mass spectrometers can establish the date the living material in the sample stopped taking in carbon from the environment (the point of death). Because C-14 has such a short half-life (radioactively decaying into Nitrogen 14), all detectable C-14 should have disappeared well before 100,000 years. But careful analysis by researchers has substantiated the presence of Carbon 14 in dinosaur bones. Critics suggested that the samples became contaminated with modern Carbon 14. However, Carboniferous coal was carefully extracted from deep within mines (far below the layers containing dinosaur remains) and fully sealed till lab analysis. It was found to still contain Carbon 14! (Baumgardner, et. al., “Measurable 14C in Fossilized Organic Materials,” Fifth ICC Paper, August 2003.)

In 2012, researchers analyzed multiple dinosaur bone samples from Texas, Alaska, Colorado, and Montana. C-14 dating revealed that they are less than 39,000 years old. These remarkable findings were presented by the German physicist Dr. Thomas Seiler at a conference sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS) in Singapore. But apparently this evidence was unacceptable to influential evolutionists. The abstract was removed from the conference website by two chairmen because they could not accept these findings.  Unwilling to challenge the data openly, they erased the report from public view without a word to the authors or even to the AOGS officers!