Amazingly intact ancient arthropod found according to reports in ScienceDaily 7 & 9 February 2011 and Geology, 2011; DOI: 10.1130/G31648.1.

The exoskeletons or hard cuticles of arthropods are formed from chitin fibres embedded in structural proteins. Chitin is a modified carbohydrate made from long chains of a glucose derivative named N-acetylglucosamine. Proteins and carbohydrates are quickly degraded by chemical breakdown and destruction by microbes when an animal dies, so fossil scientists do not expect to find chitin or protein in fossils. However, an international team of scientists led by George Cody of the Carnegie Institution of Washington have discovered remains of protein-chitin complexes in two fossil arthropods from the Palaeozoic era. One is a scorpion from northern Illinois dated as 310 million years old, and the other a eurypterid, an extinct arthropod similar to a scorpion, dated as 417 million years old from Ontario Canada.

The researchers used analytical instruments at the Advanced Light Source facility in the USA to examine the cuticles of the fossils. Some of the chitin had degraded chemically but the team reported “the concentration of vestigial chitin-protein complex is high, 59% and 53% in the fossil scorpion and eurypterid, respectively”. They suggest the chitin-protein complexes were preserved from being degraded by microbes by waxy coating derived from fatty acids that are also present in arthropod cuticles. One of the researchers Andrew Scott of the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, commented: “this research will aid our understanding of the fossilisation process and this new technique allows us to reveal the chemical nature of the fossil without total destruction”.


Editorial Comment: Bacteria are quite capable of breaking down all known waxy coatings so it takes more than just a waxy coating to protect organic matter from being degraded by bacteria. Furthermore, proteins and carbohydrates will chemically breakdown or degrade simply by reacting with water. To form such chemically intact fossils, animals and plants have to be buried rapidly, deeply and away from oxygen. If these ‘scorpion like’ fossils really were millions of years old, chemical breakdown alone would have destroyed the chitin and proteins. A better explanation for these findings, consistent with all known data, is that the fossils were rapidly and deeply buried not so very long ago. (Ref, time fossilisation, age, invertebrates)

Thanks to our fabulous fossil collector, Martin Legemaate in Ontario and some of his fossiliferous friends, we have specimen material from fossil sea scorpions (Eurypterid) from these sites, so a big thank you for encouraging Creation Research and our co-workers around the globe to continue with this research exposing evolution, confirming creation.

Evidence News 1 December 2011

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