Surviving molecules

22 Jun 2016

Not sure if this is biology or geology or physics but catastrophism seems to cover it. Robert Farrar sent in the link http://crev.info/2016/06/precambrian-protein/ ... with the comment - well preserved 1.88 billion years old molecules from NW Ontario have been found. He asks can biomolecules really survive that long or are the rocks not really that old?

It's a good question, and it's all about uniformitarianism and the necessity to create an inordinately long period of time to account for changes in the geological and biological records. The answer would be, I suppose, that it depends how the molecules were preserved - buried in the ground that became rock as a result of geological processes (not necessarily adequately explained in the Gradualist model). Would it help anyone if they had said the rocks were only half a billion years of age - still an inordinately long period of time to get the brain around. I am supposing there is a reason why evidence of life can survive in some rocks but not in others and it is too easy to say it is impossible and therefore is untrue (or misinterpreted). These things are worth cataloguing as they do not fit the mainstream message -  and the catalogue grows bigger by the day.

It's an interesting post and perhaps something you will will not see openly discussed in a mainstream journal or blog.  This is not to say the discovery will be ignored as quite clearly the link came about as a result of a published article or journal paper. It will also be discussed in-house no doubt - but outside the disciplines?

Gunflint chert (a form of flint and used in the mechanism of guns to create a spark) from Ontario has eagerly been sort out by geologists and others as it contains microbial fossils and these were captured in the process of flint/chert formation. Cretaceous flint quite often contains ocean bottom fossils such as sponges and worms etc. The Pre-Cambrian is somewhat different in that life forms such as sponges did not exist. Nevertheless the silica fluid that makes up flint and chert was able to capture other life forms - which included the microbial life forms. Just as Cretaceous flint has preserved the general shape of soft bodied creatures such as sponges so too has pre-Cambrian chert (or gunflint) preserved molecules that have excited biologists and other scientists. The big surprise is that scientists have been able to probe the structures of molecules within the fossils and it seems not all of them have been perimineralised (replaced by minerals such as silicates). As reported in Nature Communications (June 2016), we learn, 'Unbelievably there are still traces of the original organic molecules present ...' and apparently, these molecules survived temperatures up to 170 degrees celsius (338f). They also say this amounts to deeply exceptional preservation when compared to modern microbes.

We have seen a similar amount of surprise at the survival of soft parts and hair from dinosaurs in some locations.