Howell Thomas, senior paleontological preparator for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, was skeptical when a woman claimed that she found a fossilized whale brain in San Luis Obispo County, California, nine years ago.
“The first thing I said when I heard about this finding was that there’s just no way,” Thomas told the Beatrice Daily Sun. “They brought it in, and sure enough, it’s the second of two fossil whale brains [ever found].”1
He explained that “it’s an amazing specimen because brains don’t fossilize because of their soft tissue…. Soft tissue doesn’t fossilize, and so the brain is the first thing that deteriorates. To create a situation where this could get fossilized is unheard of.”1
Similarly, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported, “Most fossils are of skeletons, and scientists did not think a mass of soft tissue like a brain could fossilize.”2
But this is wrong. Soft tissues can fossilize a few ways, such as by forming impressions in rock, by being replaced by minerals that preserve the original soft tissue shape, and sometimes by a process resembling mummification of the original material.
The real reason why many paleontologists have such a difficult time interpreting soft tissue fossils is because their training tells them to believe that fossils took a long time to form and that they have been residing in earth materials for long spans of “geologic time.” Either of these core doctrines works against the possibility of soft tissues still being present in such “ancient” specimens.
The woman who found the fossil in California, Pepper O’Shaughnessy, had been using it as a doorstop in her home. This suggests that the whale brain’s soft tissue must have been replaced by mineral, making it heavy enough to hold the door and able to withstand rotting from exposure. But this is not the only example of spectacular Ice Age-deposited whale fossils found on the west coast of the Western Hemisphere, which are best explained as animals that were trapped in pools of water as the floodwaters retreated from the continents in the final stages of the Great Flood.3….
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