Attack of the Giant Platypus

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Posted on November 5, 2013 in Amazing Facts, Darwin and Evolution, Fossils, Intelligent Design, Mammals

King Kong Platypus.  Platypus-zilla.  That’s what they’re calling a new fossil that is shaking up the platypus family tree.

Before proceeding, we should note that the new platypus fossil is being deduced from a single tooth.  The news articles explain that platypus teeth (see picture on Live Science) are distinctive enough to not only identify the animal, but also gauge its size.  Experts believe this one was probably a meter in length (twice the size of living specimens), large enough to eat frogs and small turtles.  Artwork of the giant platypus gulping down a turtle begins National Geographic’s coverage.  “King Kong platypus was an ancient bone cruncher” was Michael Slezak’s headline on New Scientist, ready for a movie blockbuster screenwriter.

So what are the evolutionists saying about this?  National Geographic put “Shakes Up Evolutionary Tree” in its headline.  Basically, it shakes up the idea that the platypus enjoyed a nice, uncomplicated, linear descent, growing smaller and losing teeth as adults over time.  This species“doesn’t fit that narrative.”  It must have been on an evolutionary “side branch,” the new narrative goes.  It’s larger than the previously-believed ancestor – which was already a fully-fledged platypus.  New Scientist isn’t quite sure how to evolve this monster, quoting Michael Archer, one of the discoverers:

Fossils showed they were getting steadily smaller, that they were losing their teeth and becoming hyper-specialised. And then suddenly this gigantic King Kong platypus turns up. It shows platypuses were experimenting with side branches [on the evolutionary tree],” says Archer. “This new giant platypus-zilla, it raises more questions than it answers. If it was so divergent, what was its lifestyle? Did it have venomous spurs? Did it have a flat tail? Was it aquatic?”

Science Daily says of the lineage, “The oldest platypus fossils come from 61 million-year-old rocks in southern South America” (but see the claim of one 112 million years old from Australia, 11/27/07, its stasis rationalized by slow rates of evolution).  This new fossil is much more recent, estimated at 5–15 million years old in the evolutionary sequence, in the time frame of a previous but smaller record holder thought to be 15 million years old.  Yet both have been classified in the same genus, Obdurodon (“durable tooth”), whereas the living platypus is classified as Ornithorhynchus (“bird snout”; its species name is, appropriately, paradoxus).  Wikipedia’s article on the platypus admits, “The platypus and other monotremes were very poorly understood.”  Slezak, nevertheless, tries to sound confident amidst the puzzled looks:

Monotremes [platypus and echidna] are absolutely fascinating subjects for evolution,” says Jenny Graves from La Trobe University in Melbourne who was part of a team that sequenced the platypus genome in 2008. “Although they are definitely mammals, they retain many reptile characteristics like laying eggs — they are real evolutionary intermediates.”

But it’s sometimes hard to tell if a feature was ancestral to all mammals, or specific to platypus or echidna,” she says. Any further information about this new species could therefore be important to understanding how mammals evolved.

It’s unfair to call the platypus a “real evolutionary intermediate” when its earliest known ancestor was already a platypus, and when it’s “hard to tell if a feature was ancestral … or specific.”  It’s also doubtful that egg-laying was retained in this one lineage after mammals supposedly split from reptiles.  Certainly no evolutionist would claim that the poison spur on the male’s foot evolved from snakes or sting rays, or that its electric sense evolved from electric eels, or that its webbed feet evolved from ducks.  Rather than looking like an intermediate, the platypus represents more of a mosaic of traits that defies evolution.

National Geographic linked its coverage to a video from 2009 that shows researchers trapping, handling, and studying living platypuses.  Today, they inhabit isolated populations in the north of Australia (Queensland) and south in Tasmania, with no known way for the populations to intermingle.  The southern ones are up to three times larger than the northern ones.  Biologist David Blair notes that the platypus has five X chromosomes and five Y chromosomes.  “You can ask the question why,” he says.  “I can’t give you an answer.”  (See 12/18/09 and  11/16/09, bullet 10, “nothing random about it.”)  See 5/09/08 for evolutionary puzzles found in the platypus genome.

The giant platypus has attacked, all right: it has attacked evolutionary theory.  It is vain for evolutionists to champion this animal for Darwin.  They don’t understand it; it has no clear lineage; it is poorly understood.  Evolutionists were so astonished by it when it was first discovered, they thought it was a practical joke.  Do you see how today’s evolutionists trick readers by couching their failures in passive voice verbs?  “Poorly understood” by whom?  Not by creationists, who see God’s design all over these highly successful, sleek, delightful animals.  And no, it wasn’t made by a committee.  A committee-designed animal would be as successful as the Obamacare website.   With all its paradoxus traits, the platypus does just fine; swaggering, “No worries, mate; we’re doing just swimmingly.”  With all its fine-tuned adaptations for its habitat, the platypus thrives just as well as an otter or beaver does in their respective habitats.  It’s almost as if God made the platypus to shame anyone who would try to account for it by aimless common descent: Here; evolve this.

 

 

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