April 28, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

The Long Precambrian Fuse Gets Longer

Why did complex multicellular life explode on the scene some 550 million years ago?  That’s mystery enough, but finding complex single-celled life a billion years earlier makes it worse.  A new paper evaluated claims of Cambrian-like fossils from India dated 1.6 billion years old in the evolutionary timeline.  It did not explain the Cambrian explosion, but it did require belief in a long, long fuse.
    Bengtson et al evaluated rocks in India where claims of early Cambrian fossils had been reported in recent years.  They reported in PNAS this week.1  What they found was not multicellular life, but a complex assortment of real fossils indicating bacterial mats, cyanobacteria, along with segmented tubes and evidences of eukaryotic life – the more advanced form of unicellular life.  The fact that some of these eukaryotes formed tube-like shapes raises the question: why would a billion years go by with no more complex assemblages?  There were also “embryo-like globules” indistinguishable from those found in early Cambrian deposits, though the authors assumed the resemblance was superficial.
    Prior reports of complex fossils so early in the timeline caused serious controversy.  “If these and earlier reports are correct, they have profound implications,” they said; “either the radiometric dating consistently reflects inherited dates not related to sedimentation, as suggested by Azmi and coworkers, or Cambrian-like fossils occur in rocks that are a billion years older than the Cambrian.”  They determined some imprints were due to gas bubbles in microbial mats.  Though they could not rule out a few problematic forms, they concluded that the fossils were all from prokaryotes and a few colonial eukaryotes.  Putting the happiest face possible on their findings, they said, “the Vindhyan deposits offer important new insights into the nature and diversity of life, and in particular, the early evolution of multicellular eukaryotes.”
    Most important, the paper admitted that the Cambrian explosion had a long fuse.  Here’s how they put it:

In terms of the evolution of major taxa, the most significant information to come out of the Vindhyan phosphorites is the detailed 3-dimensional morphologic evidence for late Paleoproterozoic multicellular eukaryotes (filamentous algae).  Previously accepted multicellular eukaryotes were only known from the late Mesoproterozoic or early Neoproterozoic (i.e., some 400� 600 million years later), although some older discoveries had at least suggested the possibility that they had a longer prehistory.
    The potential of the Vindhyan phosphorites to yield fresh information on the Paleoproterozoic biotas is thus considerable, and the “shelly” biota discovered by Azmi et al. gives new insight into the nature of the Paleoproterozoic biosphere.  The discredited reports of “Cambrian” fossils [i.e., in the Vindhyan deposits dated 1.6 billion years old] turned out to be an important discovery.


1.  Bengtson, Belivanova, Rasmussen, and Whitehouse, “The controversial ‘Cambrian’ fossils of the Vindhyan are real but more than a billion years older,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print April 24, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812460106.

How credible is it to think that eukaryotes could not come up with anything more than tube-like colonies for a billion years, then bang! — trilobites, worms, crustaceans, jellyfish, and all the major animal body plans in a geological instant?  Evolution is supposed to be this inexorable force for innovation that invented mammals, birds, flying insects and all the other wonders of nature in far, far less time than that.  The real mystery here is how Darwinism survives wave after wave of falsification.  The propensity of evolutionists to snow the public with their implausible, fictional, ad hoc, speculative, imaginative, self-contradictory plot lines to rescue their theory from the evidence deserves condemnation.  Don’t let them get away with their pretensions of scholarship when defending absurdities.  The integrity of science is at stake. 

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Categories: Fossils

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