Three New Fossil Finds Challenge Evolution

Posted on November 3, 2012 in Darwin and Evolution, Fossils, Marine Biology, Terrestrial Zoology

Three fossil discoveries challenge evolutionary dogma, and the articles admit it.

Turtle: Bone Bed

Turtle stasis:  A pile of Jurassic turtles turned up in China.  It’s another case of earlier animals displaying no evolution.  The “Huge Deposit of Jurassic Turtle Remains” (Science Daily) more than doubles the number of turtle fossils known from that time.  Some 1800 specimens were found all jammed together, stacked on top of one another in a “bone bed” said to be 160 million years old. Live Science says that some of the densest concentrations contain 36 turtles per square meter.

The locale, now one of the world’s driest regions, has also yielded fossils of sharks, crocodiles, mammals and several dinosaur skeletons.  A local flood was invoked to explain the deposit: the turtles, waiting at a waterhole for the rains, died.  “Many of the turtles were already dead and their bodies rotting. When the water arrived, it came with a vengeance: a river of mud, washing the turtles and sediments along with it and dumping them in one place, as the paleontologists read the site and its layers of stone.”  In a separate piece, Live Science posted five photos of the bone bed.

Wikipedia says that turtles are “believed to have existed” in the late Triassic (220 million years ago), but the only candidate transitional form in the fossil record is one that already had a backshell and an incomplete carapace, “similar to an early stage of turtle embryonic development” – i.e., pretty far along toward turtledom.  “Prior to this discovery, the earliest-known fossil turtles were terrestrial and had a complete shell, offering no clue to the evolution of this remarkable anatomical feature. By the late Jurassic, turtles had radiated widely, and their fossil history becomes easier to read.”

Coelacanth: Living Fossil

Coelacanths again:  The bony-finned fish Coelacanth “has one of the longest lineages—400 million years—of any animal,” PhysOrg reported.  A new fossil turned up in Texas, dated 100 million years old, though members of the family extend back into the Devonian.  Because of its bony fins, it was long thought to be the closest fish to humans (echoed in the PhysOrg article).  It was also thought to have gone extinct 70 million years ago.  Reports of its rediscovery as a “living fossil” in 1938 are well known.  The fins are not used for anything like walking, though.

The article points to the serious questions about evolution and geologic history, without doubting evolution itself:  “The discovery of living coelacanths in the Indian Ocean after being presumed extinct for 70 million years highlights one of the great mysteries of ocean life. Where were they all that time?”  Not wanting to leave evolution in doubt, the statement continued, “The new fossil from Texas is a step toward understanding this fascinating history.”  How big a step on how long a path was not delineated.  Note: the diversity of coelacanth species was much higher in the past, another contradiction to evolution.

Priapulid: Living Fossil Wrongly Classified

Shaking the tree of dogma:  Priapulids are penis-shaped worms from the Cambrian explosion that survive to the present in essentially unchanged form.  A study of the embryological development of these animals now “Shakes Evolutionary Tree” (Scientific American) and “Pokes holes in evolutionary dogma” (Nature News).  How?  It’s going to require a reclassification of categories at the root of Darwin’s tree unquestioned since 1908: the split between protostomes and deuterostomes.

Contrary to assumptions by early evolutionists, priapulids are deuterostomes – the anus develops before the mouth as the embryo develops (humans and other vertebrates are deuterostomes).  Protostomes develop mouth-first.  “Just as molecular techniques have revealed data that triggered revisions in cell biology, techniques to sequence genes and observe their activity are now challenging long-standing evolutionary scenarios,” Scientific American’s short article stated.  That’s because this worm is now having to move from proto– to deutero.  As Nature News explained, taxonomists have long classified animals based on their embryos, because small things in an embryo can produce big changes in adult.

So how does this finding “poke holes in evolutionary dogma” and “shake the tree” of life?  The article continues,

Evolutionary biologists will need to rename the protostomes. To do that, “we need to rethink how our earliest ancestors developed,” says Andreas Hejnol, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the University of Bergen in Norway and lead author on the report.”…

Now, using molecular techniques to analyse gene expression, Hejnol and his team have revealed that a primitive protostome, the priapulid Priapus caudatus, develops like a deuterostome. These ‘living fossils’ look nearly identical to their priapulid ancestors, which littered the ocean floor during the Cambrian period, when protostomes originated (see ‘Protostome outlier’). That their development does not follow the protostome pattern suggests that early protostomes might also have developed differently. The order of the origin of the mouth and anus is now uncertain.

“Here is an animal that is the poster child for early protostomes, and it develops just like a deuterostome,” says Mark Martindale, a developmental biologist at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. “We’ve been using the name protostome for 100 years, and now it’s clear that it doesn’t mean anything.”

Taxonomists are going to have to come up with a new name, and evolutionists are going to have to come up with a new explanation.  In the last paragraph, Nature News probably didn’t intend to make evolution look this bad, but…

Just as molecular techniques have revealed data that triggered revisions in cell biology, techniques to sequence genes and observe their activity are now challenging long-standing evolutionary scenarios. “At the turn of the twentieth century, embryologists drew what they saw. But their microscopes stunk and they didn’t know about genes,” Martindale says. “Now we’re finally able to look closer, and we’re finding that they’re often wrong. But if you think about the tools they had, maybe it’s more surprising that anything is right at all.”

Creationists could grab that fumble and run with it.  This goes to show that gaffes did not first evolve in Joebidenus vicepresidentus.

Can anyone find anything in these observations that contradicts creation?  (No).  Can everyone find lots of things in these articles that contradict evolution?  (Yes, yes, yes.….).   For more on “surprise effects,” see “How to Translate Darwinese” (3/06/2008).  For another surprising story of stasis, read about lampreys (10/20/2006), or search on “living fossils” in the search bar.  And no, we’re not going to repeat the turtles all the way down joke.


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