Ichthyosaur Fossil

Jurassic blubber found, according to articles in BBC News, National Geographic and ScienceDaily 5 December 2018, and Nature doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0775-x.

For many years palaeontologists have speculated that ichthyosaurs had a layer of blubber (fatty tissue) under their skin as do living marine mammals such as dolphins and whales. Ichthyosaurs were reptiles, rather than mammals, but adult leatherback turtles, which are reptiles, also have a layer of blubber.  Many ichthyosaur fossils have preserved soft tissue outlines that seemed to show a gap between the spine and the body surface that could contain a blubber layer.

An international team of scientists have now studied the well-preserved fossil of an ichthyosaur named Stenopterygius held in Urweltmuseum Hauff, Holzmaden, Germany.  The scientists studied the microscopic structure of fossilised tissues and carried out chemical tests for proteins, fats and pigments. According to Johan Lindgren of Lund University, Sweden, who led the study, “Both the body outline and remnants of internal organs are clearly visible.  Remarkably, the fossil is so well-preserved that it is possible to observe individual cellular layers within its skin.”  I

n the skin they found keratin forming cells along with keratin protein, and branched cells containing the pigment melanin. Immediately under the skin they found a layer of blubber, and chemical tests found remnants of fatty acids (fats and oils that are stored in fat tissue).  The pattern of pigment cells indicated the ichthyosaur had dark skin on its back and sides in a similar pattern to living marine mammals.  Pigment would protect the animal from UV light while it was near the sea surface and also help absorb heat.

The layer of blubber would form an insulating layer to help maintain body temperature as well as aiding in buoyancy and streamlining. The skin was smooth and lacking in scales – another feature that would enhance speed and manoeuvrability while moving in water.

The Stenopterygius fossil is dated as 180 million years old, putting it in the Jurassic era in the evolutionary timetable. Mary Schweitzer, of North Carolina University, whose lab carried out some of the chemical analysis commented: “This animal’s preservation is unusual, especially for a marine environment – but then, the Holzmaden formation is known for its exceptional preservation. This specimen has given us more evidence that these tissues and molecules can preserve for extremely long periods, and that soft tissue analysis can shed light on evolutionary patterns, relationships, and how ancient animals functioned in their environment.”

Ichthyosaurs are claimed to have evolved from land dwelling reptiles that returned to the sea. Ryosuke Motani, a palaeontologist at the University of California, Davis, an expert on ichthyosaurs, explained: “They came from lung-breathing reptiles on land, and pretty quickly became fish-shaped after 30 million years. Ichthyosaurs are the first; whales did it later.”  The similarities in body structure between ichthyosaurs and dolphins has long been used as an example of convergent evolution.  The research team who studied Stenopterygius now claim the convergence “extends to the ultrastructural (microscopic) and molecular levels, reflecting the omnipresent constraints of their shared adaptation to pelagic life.”

BBC, National Geographic, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment:  The weakest part of any argument is the assumptions, and in this case we see blatant reliance on the old myth that similarities between animals in the same environment prove “adaptation” and “convergent evolution”.

Adaptation is the built-in ability to cope with changes in the environment, but it will cannot and will never add any structures or functions the creature did not already have. No-one has observed any land-dwelling mammals or reptiles turn into ocean-going marine creatures.

Convergent evolution is a term invented by evolutionists in order to impose the belief in evolution onto the observation that creatures that live in the same environment often have similar structures and function. The fact that both whales and ichthyosaurs have similar body structures, tissues and biochemistry is because these are good design for air-breathing creatures that live in the sea.

The scientists who conducted this new study, which involved many scientific techniques, have revealed some interesting results, but they are ignoring the most obvious conclusion – this fossil is evidence for rapid processes and short history. In order for tissues to be preserved well enough for their microscopic structure to remain intact the ichthyosaur had to be buried rapidly and deeply.  Otherwise scavengers and decay process would destroy them.  We admire the faith of those who believe organic molecules, such as proteins and lipids can last for 180 million years, but chemists who actually work with organic molecules know that they break down far more rapidly than that.

For more information see the question: Tissue and cells in dinosaur bones just shows they last a long time. Why make a big thing of it? Answer by synthetic chemist Prof. Ed Neeland here.

Evidence News vol. 19, No.1
30 January 2019
Creation Research Australia

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