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Further problems with the Miller et al. (2019) paper on collagen in fossil bone

To support their conclusion that collagen in Mesozoic fossil bone provides evidence that the bone is only thousands of years old, Miller et al. (2019: p. 12) stated: “Dinosaurs apparently coexisted with both Neanderthal and Modern man for a period of time. Distinct dinosaur depictions exist world-wide, apparently because contemporaneous people actually saw them,” an unexpected statement in a peer-reviewed science journal. To support that statement, Miller et al. (2019) illustrated a sixth-century mosaic in Sepphoris, which they claimed depicts a dinosaur. However, the animal in the Sepphoris mosaic is a crocodile. A crocodile was a standard feature of Nilotic scenes in the art of the Mediterranean world during the Roman period and early Middle Ages. Through the centuries, the crocodile was depicted with increasing inaccuracy, which began with its often being given short ear flaps and an unrealistically bulbous midsection in Roman art. In art of the fifth-sixth centuries, further unrealistic details were added, such as a short snout and long legs in some cases and long ear flaps in others (Hachlili, 1998). In the high Middle Ages, the trend away from realism in artistic depictions of crocodiles culminated in their being regularly given fur, feathered wings, and occasionally lateral spikes, in addition to long ear flaps, in medieval European bestiaries (see illustrations in Barber (1992) and Heck and Cordonnier (2018), for examples). The crocodile in the Sepphoris mosaic represents a stage at the beginning of this trend, in which the animal is given a bulbous midsection and long ear flaps. It is not a dinosaur, despite that its long ear flaps could be mistaken today for ceratopsian brow horns by someone unfamiliar with animal stylization in early medieval art, if one fails to take into account that the animal in the mosaic lacks both the prominent beak and the huge parietal frill that are present in every horned ceratopsian.

To further support their conclusion that humans coexisted with dinosaurs, Miller et al. (2019: p. 13) also illustrated what they called a “dinosaur petroglyph” at Kachina Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. In fact, their illustration is a previously published (Swift, 2006) creative misrepresentation of the petroglyph, in which a light-colored image of a dinosaur has been digitally superimposed over a photograph of the petroglyph. The petroglyph itself has no legs and is therefore not a dinosaur. Mineral stains on the rock face yield the illusion of legs beneath the petroglyph, which is a sinuous shape of enigmatic meaning (Senter and Cole, 2011). Regarding the “distinct dinosaur depictions” that “exist world-wide” according to Miller et al. (2019: p. 12), it should be noted that alleged dinosaur depictions that have been investigated have been shown to be misinterpretations (Senter, 2012, 2019; Burnett, 2019) or hoaxes (Carriveau, 1976; Polidoro, 2002; Burgess and Marshall, 2009).


TABLE 1. Misconceptions of cellular and soft tissue preservation in fossil bone from YEC literature.



In the Ostrich Hb Experiment, the experimenters “made a visual determination of the preservation of the blood vessels after two years and did not conduct any chemical tests” (Clarey, 2020: p. 100). In the Ostrich Hb Experiment, the experimenters conducted several chemical tests, including electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) and micro-x-ray fluorescence (μXRF) to identify and map iron in the tissues, micro-x-ray absorption near-edge structure (μ-XANES) to determine the chemical speciation of iron, μ-XANES and micro-x-ray diffraction (μ-XRD) to identify the minerals in the tissues, and iron chelation and immunoreactivity to confirm that iron was bound to proteins (Schweitzer et al., 2014).
The published illustrations from the electronic supplemental material (published online) of the Ostrich Hb Experiment do not show a major difference between the water-soaked and blood-soaked vessels at high magnification (Anderson, 2017). In the illustrations in question, the vessels soaked in water show much collapse and fungal invasion, whereas those soaked in blood show much less of both, and those soaked in blood under oxygenated conditions show no collapse at all (figure S4 of the electronic supplementary information of Schweitzer et al., 2014). The differences between water-soaked and blood-soaked vessels are illustrated in figure S4 of the electronic supplementary information and are also verbally pointed out in the caption to that supplemental figure and on p. 7 of the main article (Schweitzer et al., 2014).
The electronic supplemental material of the Ostrich Hb Experiment is no longer available online (Anderson, 2017). It is still available at suppl/10.1098/rspb.2013.2741
The FH is falsified by the presence of certain amino acids in the soft tissues in dinosaur bone, because Fenton reactions would have altered those amino acids (Anderson, 2017; Anderson, 2018). Fenton reactions require an aqueous medium, and the presence of water causes asparagine to become deamidated to isoaspartic acid, causes glutamine and asparagine to become deamidated in the presence of certain neighboring amino acids, and causes serine to detach from neighboring amino acids by hydrolysis (DeMassa and Boudreaux, 2015). In the presence of hydroxyl radicals, tyrosine would have formed cross-links, methionine would have oxidized to become methionine sulfoxide, and histidine would have oxidized to become 2-oxo-histidine (DeMassa and Boudreaux, 2015). This misconception fails to take into account that the three-dimensional structure of a protein can shield reactive amino acids from reactants (Robinson and Robinson, 1991; Cournoyer et al., 2005). It also fails to take into account that even though certain amino acids and amino acid pairs are more unstable than others, the longer sequence of amino acids that contains them can counteract their instability (Robinson and Robinson, 1991).
Heme is stable and therefore unlikely to release free iron (Armitage, 2017). When Hb breaks down, its heme then breaks down and releases free iron (Balla et al., 2005, 2007).
“Without an actual decay rate of vascular tissue in blood concentrate, we cannot reliably extrapolate an age expectation” (Thomas, 2015: p. 243). The decay rate of vascular tissue has no bearing on how long said tissue will be preserved if its decay is arrested.
The FH does not explain the preservation of CBM, because CBM wouldn’t have had enough access to blood for a sufficient amount of iron to arrive there from Hb (Anderson, 2017). CBM is adjacent to canaliculi, which conduct materials from blood (Feng et al., 2006), thereby providing CBM with access to iron from decomposing Hb. CBM is also adjacent to osteocytes, which produce ferritin (Spanner et al., 1995; Li et al., 2018), another plausible iron source.
Collagen cannot last longer than 900,000 years (ICR, 2013; Clarey, 2015; Thomas, 2015) or 1.5 million years (Anderson, 2018). This misconception is based on misreadings of a 2011 study that found collagen in fossils 1.5 million years old and expressed hope that collagen could be found in fossils from a deposit 900,000 years old (Buckley and Collins, 2011). The study did not conclude that collagen cannot last longer than that.
Canaliculi are too narrow to have conducted materials from Hb breakdown from blood to osteocytes (Thomas, 2015). Canaliculi do conduct materials from blood (Feng et al., 2006). Also, osteocytes produce ferritin (Spanner et al., 1995; Li et al., 2018), a plausible source of iron for Fenton reactions.
The FH is implausible, because a “blood bath” was absent in the case of other preserved soft tissues such as dinosaur skin and the casings of sabellid worms (Thomas, 2015; Anderson, 2017). If dinosaur skin and invertebrate casing are preserved by some method other than Fenton chemistry, that doesn’t invalidate the FH, because the FH is an explanation of the preservation of cells and soft tissues within fossil bone, not skin or invertebrate casings.
Mesozoic bones with preserved cells and soft tissues are “fresh” (Woetzel, 2012; Oard et al., 2016) or unfossilized (Oard, 2009, 2011). Although fossil bones with preserved cells and soft tissues may be less permineralized than those without preserved cells and soft tissues, they bear the chemical signatures of fossilization, such as fluorination (Surmik et al., 2016; Kiseleva et al., 2019; Korneisel et al., 2021; Schroeter et al., 2022; Voegele et al., 2022), recrystallization with rare earth elements (Kiseleva et al., 2019; Gatti et al., 2022; Schroeter et al., 2022; Ullmann et al., 2022), and (in some cases) partial permineralization (Plet el al., 2017; Kiseleva et al., 2019; Voegele et al., 2022). Even the collagen in such bones is sufficiently altered (Wiemann et al., 2018; Boatman et al., 2019) to be considered to have undergone fossilization. The many diagenetic changes that the cells and soft tissues have undergone (Pawlicki, 1995; Pawlicki and Nowogrodzka-Zagóriśka, 1998; Lindgren et al., 2011; Schweitzer et al., 2013; Schweitzer et al., 2014; Cadena, 2016; Surmik et al., 2016; Lee et al., 2017; Boatman et al., 2019; Ullmann et al., 2019; Cadena, 2020; Bailleul and Zhou, 2021; Surmik et al., 2021; Zheng et al., 2021) show that neither they nor the bones that house them are fresh.