April 3, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Earliest Comb Jelly Fossil Looks Modern

One would think that a paper listed in the category “Evolution” would include supporting evidence that evolution had occurred, but a new Evolution paper in PNAS provides more arguments against it than for it.1  An international team studying early Cambrian fossil beds in China found a comb jelly embryo essentially identical to those alive today.  Using Raman spectroscopy, they identified the comb rows (used for locomotion), an oral cavity and other diagnostic features of ctenophores, and said it looks remarkably similar to those inhabiting China seas in modern times.  This is the earliest known fossil of a comb jelly.  They dated it to 540 million years – the base of the Cambrian period.  The prior record holder was dated at 530 million years.
    The authors of the paper included the renowned Cambrian fossil scientist J. Y. Chen, the avid hunter of Precambrian fossils Bill Schopf, and USC paleontologist David Bottjer.  They considered whether this fossil might fit into an evolutionary sequence.  They briefly dismissed the idea that comb jellies were intermediate between the enigmatic Ediacaran biota (08/19/2004), sponges and cnidarians (jellyfish).  Nope, can’t be, they decided; too many missing transitional forms and other problems.  Here’s what they said about that hypothesis after concluding the organism shared the pelagic (free-swimming) lifestyle of living comb jellies:

In contrast with this pelagic interpretation, Shu et al. recently hypothesized an evolutionary link between the benthic, frondose Chengjiang fossil Stromaveris psygmoglena and modern ctenophores as well as some Ediacaran vendobionts.  To link these groups, they proposed that the early evolution of ctenophores was marked by a shift from a benthic, sessile existence to a pelagic habit coupled with a change in the function of their cilia from feeding to locomotion.  Such a shift would involve major changes in basic morphology and ecology and would require many (undocumented) intermediate stages.  Furthermore, their interpretation of S. psygmoglena as a stem-group ctenophore is based heavily on the presence of closely spaced branches that because they are “probably ciliated” were inferred to represent precursors of the diagnostic comb rows of ctenophores.  Given that cilia are of widespread occurrence, not only in metazoans but in protists as well, and that they have diverse functions, not only for locomotion or feeding, use of the presence of probable cilia as a prime character by which to infer a ctenophore affinity for S. psygmoglena is problematic.  Similarly, the suggestion by Shu et al. that the Ctenophora occupies an intermediate evolutionary position between sponges and cnidarians is inconsistent with numerous lines of evidence, both anatomical and molecular.

They left off the evolution discussion there, concluding only that this is an “important find” and that Raman spectroscopy “can yield important data to the understanding of life’s early history.”


1Chen, Schopf, Bottjer et al, “Raman spectra of a Lower Cambrian ctenophore embryo from southwestern Shaanxi, China,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 0.1073/pnas.0701246104, published online before print April 2, 2007.

Notice they said that Raman spectroscopy can yield understanding about life’s early history, not that it does.  Actually, it does – it helps scientists falsify Darwinism.  The earliest comb jelly bursts onto the scene at the lowest fossil layer, fully formed and essentially modern.
    Several things in this paper show the squeeze Darwin is in with the Cambrian explosion.  The authors actually use the term Cambrian explosion in the first paragraph, indicating that it is still a problem 148 years after Darwin hoped that new fossils would explain it away.  They call it a “rapid rise in the diversity of skeletonized metazoans,” a euphemism for “Darwin’s gradualism is in heap big trouble.”  Using words like “radiation” masks the problem this is for Darwinism.  It merely attempts damage control through jargon (see 04/23/2006), also known as “perception management.”  It’s not a bug; it’s a feature.
    Other problems for Darwin include their frank admission that the only competing evolutionary hypothesis linking comb jellies with putative ancestors contradicts evidence from fossils, anatomy, and molecular phylogeny.  They also dispute the idea that cilia could be co-opted for the locomotive comb rows of the ctenophores.  Then they leave their paper without any better evolutionary story, merely hoping that the new technique they used will some day help evolutionists understand life’s early history.  All tired of waiting for them to understand, say aye-yi-yi-yi-yi.
    Comb jellies are remarkable marine animals.  They have a complex digestive system, with mouth and “pharynx, where ingested material passes into a complex system of radiating vascular structures that include eight meridional canals, one beneath each comb row,” the authors state.  The combs are used for locomotion, another complex system.  And they give the most remarkable light shows in nature: colorful streams of blinking lights that cascade down their sides (see 12/19/2005).  Each of these are irreducibly complex systems without fossil precursors.  The fact that delicate fossil embryos of these modern-looking animals could be discerned in rocks today gives the lie to Darwin’s myth of slow, gradual evolution over millions of years.  Why don’t we be done with it and give Charlie a quiet burial at sea?

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Categories: Fossils

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