The famous Confuciusornis sanctus fossil from China’s northeast Liaoning Province contains patches that appear to be residue from the bird’s original tissues. Long evolutionary ages should have made this impossible, since any such biological material would have completely decayed into the tiniest of its constituent chemicals millions of years ago.

But although the fossil is supposedly 120 million years old, researchers recently confirmed the presence of original organic material. There is a serious problem with this fossil’s age assignment.

The scientists used state-of-the art synchrotron X-ray techniques to confirm that certain metals were concentrated in bone and feather areas, and that those metals are held in place by bird proteins.1 For example, they were able to generate a calcium-only image that showed the exact outline of each bone.2 Calcium is a metal that is integrated with specific proteins used in the construction of tough tissues such as bone and feathers.

In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers found that the calcium and copper present in the fossil had not leeched into the bones and feathers from surrounding materials. Instead, they are in the same distribution as that in the bones and feathers of modern birds. The study authors wrote that these metals “are present in fossils as organometallic compounds most likely derived from original eumelanin.”1….

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