Amber-Encased Blood Cells Look Fresh | The Institute for Creation Research

Amber-Encased Blood Cells Look Fresh

Looking for the clearest amber on Earth? A new study shows that Dominican Republic amber is clear enough to see what's inside. Apparently, ancient parasitic protozoans loved to live inside intact red blood cells.

Publishing in the Journal of Medical Entomology, renowned amber collector George Poinar showed over a dozen pictures taken with a microscope. They reveal tiny parasites in various growth stages inside blood cells as well as body tissues of a bloated tick trapped in the amber.1

The red blood cells are large, have no nuclei, and follow the classic biconcave disc shape. All three features point to blood cells from certain mammals. The cells must have escaped through tiny rips in the tick's tough hide after tree resin captured the hapless insect long ago. Poinar suggested the tick took its last blood meal from a primate. How old are these blood cells and why haven't they completely decomposed?

Study author Poinar wrote that this discovery marks the earliest fossil mammalian red blood cells and "intraerythrocytic hemoparasites," blood parasites that live inside red blood cells.1 The sandstones that house Dominican ambers bear wide age assignments ranging from 15 to 45 million years, depending on which fossils are used in the typically circular age assignment process called biostratigraphy.2 By assuming the fossils came from creatures that evolved over eons, researchers attach those same eons to the fossils' rocks.

But shouldn't the persistence of intact red blood cells, in contrast to cells' rapid decay upon their deaths, challenge this assigned age?

Many amber-encased insects, plant parts, lizard body parts, and other fossils show definite signs of decay. Sometimes their body cavities turn to empty shells. Many other insect bodies convert into a whitish mass. After fewer than a million years—to say little of 15 to 45 times longer than that—all these trapped carcasses should have totally fallen apart. But many amber-trapped carcasses, like this bloated tick and its associated red blood cells, look far too pristine to have been sitting there for millions of years.

Some seem convinced that amber has an almost magical preservation power, possibly inspired by movies like Jurassic Park. But the science of decay shows that this Hollywood embellishment rings hollow—DNA and proteins decay orderly and incessantly.

Ambers can form from certain tree resins in just a few years. They crack and darken with age. If microbes or salt deposits enter the cracks, they widen and the amber breaks apart over time. But like many other samples from around the world, none of that happened to the amber surrounding this tick. Its deposition only thousands of years ago may mean that the secular age assignments are wrong, but it does explain how a tick, its nearby red blood cells, and even parasites within these cells still look so pristine.

References

  1. Poinar, G. 2017. Fossilized Mammalian Erythrocytes Associated With a Tick Reveal Ancient Piroplasms. Journal of Medical Entomology. doi: 10.1093/jme/tjw247.
  2. Thomas, B. Circular Arguments Punch Holes in Triceratops Study. Posted on ICR.org July 21, 2014, accessed April 14, 2017.

Image credit: © 2017 Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.

*Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on April 17, 2017.

The Latest
NEWS
ICR's New In-Depth Science Book: Chimps and Humans
Evolutionists frequently claim that human and chimp DNA are over 98% similar. They need this percentage to support their hypothesis that humans and...

NEWS
Fossil Chromatin Looks Young
What are the odds that a buried animal would still have intact DNA after 125 million years? Researchers publishing in the journal Communications Biology...

NEWS
Inside October 2021 Acts & Facts
How is the Lord’s handiwork on display at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park? Does the universe look old? What can we learn about science and...

NEWS
Two-Volume Series: Restoring the Truth about Origins
The subject of origins continues to attract interest from the public and the scientific establishment. Understanding our origins informs us of who we are...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Floods Form Fossils Fast
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
A Battle for Hearts
Since the ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History opened in fall of 2019, tens of thousands of people have walked through our doors. They...

APOLOGETICS
Eating Bugs Isn't Always So Simple
The Lord Jesus Christ deserves glory for why He made Earth’s diverse creatures, and He also deserves glory for the complicated details of how...

ACTS & FACTS
Does the Universe Look Old?
Since distant galaxies are billions of light-years away, some understandably assume that distant starlight must have taken billions of years to reach...

ACTS & FACTS
Hawaii Behind the Scenes
ICR Research Scientist Dr. Brian Thomas and ICR Video Producer Clint Loveness, with help from friends and family, recently shot footage in Maui, Hawaii,...

ACTS & FACTS
Mutation, Design, and Faith
Any alteration in a cell’s DNA sequence is a mutation. These changes can come from copying errors, exposure to chemicals or radiation, or from...