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Q&A: Could “Fresh” Dino Tissue Survive for Millions of Years?

From Nate in Fullerton, CA:

Recently I’ve been referred by some young-earth creationist friends to a couple of articles about a Tyrannosaurus rex tooth and a Triceratops-type horn that both underwent an autopsy showing (relatively speaking) “fresher” organic material. Does this affect the time line for the existence of dinosaurs? I appreciate the thought put into this and would love support on how to respond to maintain the old-earth perspective.

The claim made by young-earth creationists is that discovery of soft tissue evidence in dinosaur fossils proves that these fossils cannot be millions of years old. Soft tissue, they insist, cannot be preserved for that long of a time period.

Paleontologists who have studied these fossils disagree. It is true that such evidence usually decays into an unrecognizable form in just a few hundred thousand years or less. However, if a sample is isolated from any exposure to bacteria and oxygen, then the soft tissue evidence easily can be preserved for over a hundred million years.

Tissue inside a tooth or a horn, where that tooth or horn is quickly buried by mud or volcanic ash, will be effectively cut off from bacteria and oxygen. Thus, it is not at all surprising that soft tissue evidence inside the tooth and horn was preserved for tens of millions of years. If you read the peer-reviewed science papers in which these discoveries were announced, you will note that the authors do not express shock at their findings.

For more in-depth responses to young-earth creationists’ claims about soft tissue evidence in dinosaurs and the tactics certain young-earth creationists employ to distort paleontological findings, see the following articles on the Reasons to Believe website: