Discovery magazine interviewed Mary Schwietzer, the woman who discovered soft tissue in dinosaurs. She mentions that when she was working on a T rex skeleton she smelt something like a cadaver. When she mentioned this to Jack Horner he said all Hell's Creek fossils smell. Discovery magazine then claims the implications of this didn't register to her colleagues. Is it true that no-one else had made the connection between the smell of Hell's Creek fossils (and dinosaur fossils in general - I imagine there is nothing special about Hell's Creek fossils), and the possibility that organic material might be preserved in the fossils?

Relevant quote:

"Once, when she was working with a T. rex skeleton harvested from Hell Creek, she noticed that the fossil exuded a distinctly organic odor. "It smelled just like one of the cadavers we had in the lab who had been treated with chemotherapy before he died," she says. Given the conventional wisdom that such fossils were made up entirely of minerals, Schweitzer was anxious when mentioning this to Horner. "But he said, 'Oh, yeah, all Hell Creek bones smell,'" she says. To most old-line paleontologists, the smell of death didn't even register. To Schweitzer, it meant that traces of life might still cling to those bones."

  • 4
    The claim in the article seems to be "paleontologists were familiar with the smell of fossils, but Schwietzer realised the smell might have implications". You question is whether anybody had "reported" it. That wasn't part of the claim.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 24, 2020 at 21:19
  • @Oddthinking - I find the question intriguing, so I took a shot at editing it.
    – Mark
    Nov 25, 2020 at 7:05
  • @Mark: If Shannon is happy that this matches their question, we can re-open. It's going to be tough to answer (especially if, as the article suggests, it isn't widely accepted that the smells do indicate (paleontological) organic material.)
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 25, 2020 at 7:08
  • @Oddthinking - agreed!
    – Mark
    Nov 25, 2020 at 7:12
  • 2
    @oddthinking I'm happy with it
    – Shannon T
    Nov 26, 2020 at 7:17


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