Re: Precambrian Pollen

Glenn Morton (
Fri, 05 Sep 1997 20:16:22 -0500

At 11:25 AM 9/5/97, Allen Roy wrote:

>Ok. From what you wrote it appeared that you had not read it.
>Specifically with regard to the procedures they followed in taking and
>preparing samples. I thought they made it clear that they used standard
>operating procedure (that is, by-the-book methodology). They did the same
>thing that any other geologist must do under any other circumstances.
>It seems that the only reason anyone is questioning their abilities is
>because they found what was not 'supposed' to be there. They also point out
>that they did not expect to find anything either, yet they did.

Whoa. I have found that it is quite difficult to determine why someone
questions something. In my case is most assuredly is not because of what
they say they found. That is a serious presumption on your part. I think
they did find pine pollen. What I am unconvinced of is the claim that they
found OLD/ANCIENT pollen. I gave specific reasons why I don't think that
they have found what they think they have found. And you have not responded
to that.

1. Color--old pollen is dark brown

2. the level of metamorphism in the rock is such that most organic material
should be cooked.

3.the shape of the pollen. Old pollen should have been compressed.

Let's deal with these expectations concerning the characteristics of the
pollen expected IF it is ancient pollen.

>They make the point that they may have found the pollin because they did
>not subject the samples to hydrofloric acid. Apparently, the fossils were
>silicafied (sorry if that is not a real word :-). The silicates would
>have been disolved in the hydrofloric acid, while actual pollin would have
>been unaffected.


>And if the other fellow subject his samples to the hydrofloric bath
>then he may well have disolved any silicate fossils, and so naturally not
>have found anything.

I might point out two things about this. First, let me point out that
hydrofluoric acid is a standard technique for processing of palynological
samples. G. Bignot says,

"Two extract non-mineralized microfossils, palynologists ahve
devised techniques that require a well-equipped laboratory with ventilation
hood, centrifuge, glassware, Teflon beakers, etc. The standard method for
common rocks (sandstones, limestones, marls, schists, etc.) uses a 10-g
sample and consists of the following stages:

Crushing into fragments of less than 5 mm if it is a coherent rock.

Destruction of any carbonate phase by the action of 505 hydrochloric acid(HCl).

Attack on silica and silicates using 70% hydrofuoric acid(HF) (very
dangerous!) over a period of 12 hours.

Dissolution of the flouorosilicates formed using 50% HCl for 10 to 30 min.

Selective oxidation of fine humic and carbonaceous particles using 10% KOH
for 30 min.

Elimination of pyrite and thinning out of palynological material through the
brief (few minutes) use of concentrated nitric acid (HNO3)" G. Bignot,
_Elements of Micropaleontology_, (Boston:IHRDC, 1985), p. 9
**end quote**

Apparently, if they didn't use HF, they didn't perform the work correctly.

Secondly, according to Folsom, only

"Two out of ten preparations of Hakatai Shale were observed to contain
pollen."~Marcia L. Folsom, "Fossils of Grand Canyon," in Steven A.Austin,
editor, Grand Canyon: A Monument to Catastrophe, (Santee: ICR, 1994), p.137

This is quite interesting because says,

"Actually, we used the entire Doher/Chadwick method (with time in HF
solutions) on two HS samples and obtained positive results in one instance!"

This would seem to indicate that 1 of their 2 positive samples was not
silicified and thus may not have been ancient but rather, modern. According
to your logic that silicification=ancient pollen, we know that one positive
case wasn't. I guess you will now admit that this leaves only one possible
example of pollen from Howe et al.

The question now is: was that pollen, in the HF untreated sample silicified
or unsilicified?

One other thing. I was not impressed with the statement of qualifications
given in that article "Lammerts was a plant breeder and geneticist and Howe
is a botanist, so such work was within their area of expertise."

George Howe is a personal friend of mine. I like and respect him very much.
But to say that palynology is within his and Lammerts area of expertise is
like saying that mining engineers know geology. They don't. They know
strength of materials. And vice versa, I, as a geophysicist, don't know how
to construct a mine even though it uses rocks and physics. I would bet more
on George's abilities, but even then, palynology is not his area of speciality.


Foundation, Fall and Flood