Believe it or not


Muddled madness over Mississippian organic molecules

sea lily
A crinoid (sea lily)

Fossilized sea lilies (crinoids) supposedly 'dated' as being 350 million years old have yielded intact species-specific complex organic molecule biomarkers—specifically, aromatic compounds called quinones.

Quinones are known to sometimes function as pigments, and these quinones found in the fossil sea lilies are just the same as those found in sea lilies living today.

Now this ought to be a bombshell to anyone still thinking these fossils could be millions of years old. As the Ohio State University press release said in its introduction, "scientists have long believed that complex organic molecules couldn't survive fossilization"—i.e. that complex organic molecules couldn't survive for millions of years.

However, instead of logically questioning the 350-million-year supposed 'age' of their fossils, the researchers blithely said that their results suggest that "the preservation of diagnostic organic molecules is much more common than previously realised".

What muddled madness. This hand-waving dismissal of what should sensibly have been reason for a major paradigm shift, glibly enabled the researchers to proclaim their finding as "the oldest examples of biomarker molecules extracted directly from fossilized remains."

What a pity they hadn't been content to limit their statements to the observable facts, and leave the history to eyewitness historians. For more see Gilding the (sea) lily at

Isolation and characterization of the earliest taxon-specific organic molecules (Mississippian, Crinoidea), Geology 41(3):347–350, 2013.

Ancient fossilized sea creatures yield oldest biomolecules isolated directly from a fossil, Ohio State University,, 18 February 2013.

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