The salamander fossil hails from what is thought to have been an ancient lake bed in southern Spain. During analysis, researchers saw a “sinewy texture visible under the microscope” that they immediately identified as muscle tissue, according to Patrick Orr of University College Dublin. The discovery is reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The muscle tissue has been “organically preserved in three dimensions, with circulatory vessels infilled with blood.”
Geologist Maria McNamara, also from University College Dublin, explained, “After first sighting the material, we completed a series of highly detailed analyses to limit the possibility that it was simply an artefact of preservation or something unrelated to the biology of the animal.” She continued,
“We noticed that there had been very little degradation since it was originally fossilised about 18 million years ago, making it the highest quality soft tissue preservation ever documented in the fossil record.”
The muscle tissue has been “organically preserved in three dimensions, with circulatory vessels infilled with blood,” a press release reports, adding that the researchers “claim that their discovery is unequivocal evidence that high-fidelity organic preservation of extremely decay prone soft tissues is more common in the fossil record.”
The amazing quality of preservation of many of the creatures in the fossil record continues to be evidence of catastrophic burial—before the bodies could degrade or be scavenged.
By the way, tomorrow evening the popular TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes will cover this fascinating topic of fossil preservation. The segment will deal with the contents of a T. rex bone supposedly over 65 million years old. The bone contains wonderfully preserved soft tissue, including blood vessels. This is compelling evidence that this dinosaur lived far more recently, for the blood vessels would surely have disappeared during the bone’s alleged 65 million years of preservation. (For more, see “Ostrich-Osaurus” Discovery?.)
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