Thursday, 6 December 2018

Soft Tissue From a 180 Million Year Old Ichthyosaur

Image courtesy of Dmitry Bogdanov, CC BY 3.0.

Joel Kontinen

Nature has an interesting article on a 180 million year old ichthyosaur, authored by Mary Schweitzer and 22 other researchers.,

Schweitzer’s university has this to say about the findings:

“Molecular and microstructural analysis of a Stenopterygius ichthyosaur from the Jurassic (180 million years ago) reveals that these animals were most likely warm-blooded, had insulating blubber and used their coloration as camouflage from predators.”

The press release quotes Johan Lindgren:“Both the body outline and remnants of internal organs are clearly visible,” says Lindgren. “Remarkably, the fossil is so well-preserved that it is possible to observe individual cellular layers within its skin.”

“Schweitzer and NC State research assistant Wenxia Zheng extracted soft tissues from the samples and performed multiple, high-resolution immunohistochemical analyses. ‘We developed a panel of antibodies that we applied to all of the samples, and saw differential binding, meaning the antibodies for a particular protein – like keratin or hemoglobin – only bound to particular areas,’ Schweitzer says. ‘This demonstrates the specificity of these antibodies and is strong evidence that different proteins persist in different tissues. You wouldn’t expect to find keratin in the liver, for example, but you would expect hemoglobin. And that’s what we saw in the responses of these samples to different antibodies and other chemical tools.’ ”

Their “results were repeatable and consistent across labs.” The soft tissue here was much older than in Schweitzer’s other discoveries for instance, in A t-rex and a Hadrosaur. It concludes that millions of years can’t be true.


Peake, Tracey. 2018. Soft Tissue Shows Jurassic Ichthyosaur Was Warm-Blooded, Had Band Camouflage, Nc State University.