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Paleozoic Deep Cell Project

In search of the earliest preserved vertebrate cells.

This ongoing research has primarily focused on the discovery of soft tissue structures in vertebrate fossils that are geologically far older than the dinosaurs.  Future research would include fossils from the Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian.  This project would represent the earliest known vertebrates found in the fossil record.  At face value this would seem absurd as the earliest fossils would be so old that no organic bio-structures could possibly have survived.  Animals from the Paleozoic would have been alive long before the North American Continent even existed.  They are indeed older than the mountains and were allegedly further back in time than the first land animals.  However, if most of the fossil deposition occurred during the Great Flood then it should be possible to uncover evidence of unexpected preservation.  Studying the early fossils at the cell level should answer several important questions.  

Are there any structures remaining in the fossils that can be interpreted as original cells?  Can the histology of the sample still preserve the original micro-anatomy and provide hints of its physiology?  Is there any remanent collagen remaining in the bone matrix?  How has the process of diagenesis affected the surviving tissues?  Is there anything new and undiscovered to be found in these older period fossils?  What type of experiments and techniques can be developed and used to explore these valuable fossils.  Can we find evidence that these early fossils cannot possibly be as old as generally assumed?   

A number of invasive techniques are required in order to study Paleozoic fossils at the cell level.  The first involves isolating potential soft tissues from the bone matrix.  This requires complete de-calcification of the sample using a very mild acid (EDTA).  Soft tissues are not generally affected by the acid, but the mineral components of the bone are dissolved.  This process will liberate any potential bio-components (proteins) that are not mineralized.  High resolution light microscopy can then be used to document any soft tissue structures that may be discovered.  

Another technique involves thin sections, when ground to under 80µ thick they allow the transmission of light thus facilitating study at the cell level.  This will also provide a record of the histology of the sample.  Sections should reveal all the features of the specimen in their original morphology.  Any preserved cells will be seen in-situ and in orientation with the other biological structures.  

Occasionally, vertebrate fossils can be found in Paleozoic coal deposits (rare).  This is of special interest as the deposition of the fossil may have been done in an anaerobic environment.  Also, coal shale is normally fine grained and should be very conducive to high quality preservation.  These special fossils can be collected from Devonian and Carboniferous deposits representing some of the earliest vertebrates in the fossil record.  For example, coal deposits from Northumberland England (Carboniferous) typically have a single stratum of fossils on the bottom most seam of the coal measures.  The vertebrates are found primarily in that lowest seam and not in the upper seams where botanical remains are typically found.  This is what you would expect from the early deposits of the great flood.


The proof is there, we just need eyes to see and a mind that understands the true meaning of the evidence that God has preserved.  

Below are photographs of preserved soft tissue from Permian and Devonian fossils as revealed with high resolution microscopy.

Secular time scale of the geological column illustrating the extent of the Paleozoic period. (Wikipedia)

1. Osteocyte (bone cell), from the amphibian, Eryops megacephalus, lower Permian.  This cell was liberated from the toe bone of a specimen collected from Archer County, TX. (Permian basin).  By conventional wisdom, the source bone bed is estimated to be 290 million years old.  The cell retains all of its original morphology including branching filipodia that connected with adjacent cells during life.  Sub-cellular features like a granular nucleus are still visible.  This cell was never permineralized or it would not have survived the de- calcification process.  1000x.  No.MSSC.B22.14-4.  Slide was mounted by Mark Armitage, DSTRI.  

2. Osteocyte from the same toe bone as figure 1.  Note the transparent cytoplasm in the two filipodia extending from the right side of the cell.  The main body of the cell is dominated by a natural ferrous-oxide stain which contains two distinct nucleoli.  The preservation of this cell can be compared with the appearance of a fresh modern cell.  1000x. No.MSSC.B22.14-3

3. Eryops m. blood vessel with membrane still intact, inside and extending through a rupture are the remains of blood cells including a clot seen on the right side.  This vessel would have been quite small and delicate during its lifetime. 500x No.MSSC.B22.14-8

4. A sheet of collagen liberated from the toe bone of Eryops megacephalus, lower Permian.  The collagen is impregnated with osteocytes that are naturally stained with a ferrous oxide.  The stain appears differentiated indicating different parts of the cells took up different amounts of stain.  The tiny specks throughout the sheet are chelated collagen.  500x. No.MSSC.B22.14-14

5, 6. Erythrocytes (blood cells), found in vascular canals of the vertebral spine of a Devonian fossil fish, Dipterus sp.  Cell membranes are still intact  and the size is consistent with modern blood cells.  The fossil was collected from a Scottish coal mine of Devonian age, 400 million years old.  750x.  No.MSSC.B22.25-9

Eryops megacephalus, (amphibian) lower Permian.  From the bone-beds of Archer County, TX. (Per-basin). (Wikipedia).

Artist’s rendition of a Devonian lungfish, Dipterus sp. (Ctenotus).  From a Devonian coal mine in Scotland, UK.  

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