Shell-Shocked: Preserved Proteins in Supposedly Ancient Shells Surprises Scientists

Ecphora shellScientists recently studying a collection of ancient shells were surprised to find not only no evidence of evolution in the specimens, but also clear evidence of protein-rich materials that normally cannot survive millions of years.

According to a recent article published in the European Association of Geochemistry’s Geochemical Perspective Letters, researchers analyzed shells found along the coast of Maryland. The shells, which belong to the genus Ecphora and are believed to be several million years old, were subjected to a variety of testing techniques.

The scientists’ research yielded some surprising findings. Despite the purported ancient ages of the shells, the specimens were rich with well-preserved proteins that had somehow escaped decay. The researchers described this discovery as “remarkable,” because proteins usually cannot survive long eons of time without decomposing.

“Results from several analytical techniques are all consistent with the remarkable preservation of protein-rich, polymeric shell-binding material and associated pigments in specimens as old as 18 [million years],” the scientists wrote. “Four lines of evidence support this conclusion.”

The scientists noticed “a very high degree of molecular preservation” in the Ecphora shells, including “the detection of intact amino acids,” which is “evidence for at least intact fragments of protein.” In fact, they say their study “represents some of the oldest and best-preserved examples of original protein observed in a fossil shell.”

Furthermore, the scientists noted that the old shells had compositions “very similar” to that of modern creatures. In other words, the invertebrates have experienced nearly no evolution.

“The organic matter elemental and isotopic compositions are very similar to those from modern marine invertebrates,” the researchers explained. “We conclude, therefore, that essentially intact shell-binding proteins have been preserved for up to 18 [million years].”

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However, other scientists question the researchers’ claims that the proteins were somehow preserved for nearly 20 million years. Dr. Jay Wile, a popular science textbook author with a Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry, says proteins simply cannot survive that long.

“Even at temperatures of zero degrees Celsius, the hardiest proteins are not expected to be detectable in organic samples that are more than about 3 million years old,” Wile wrote in a blog post last month. “Nevertheless, the authors found lots of essentially intact proteins in fossils that are supposed to be up to 18 million years old!”

“It seems to me,” he continued, “that if you want to believe these fossils are millions of years old, you need to come up with some mechanism by which proteins can stay intact for so long.”

Many other similar discoveries seem to fly in the face of the old-earth, evolutionary narrative. As previously reported, Canadian scientists were shocked in 2013 when they found well-preserved dinosaur skin on a fossil that they believed to be at least 60 million years old. Then, last year, a biologist was fired from California State University after he discovered soft tissue on a Triceratops fossil.

Wile believes the existence of proteins and soft tissues in these various specimens lends credibility to the belief that the fossils are not millions of years old after all.

“If nothing else,” he wrote on his blog, “I can safely say that finding such tissue was surprising to those who believe the fossils are millions of years old, but it wasn’t surprising to those of us who think the fossils are only thousands of years old.”

Photo: Geochemical Perspectives Letters


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