September 15, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Was Coelacanth a Lungfish?

Instead of showing remorse over a Lazarus taxon, evolutionists invoke another besetting sin: vestigial organs.

The poster child for living fossils is Coelacanth, a lobe-finned fish long thought extinct till a living one was found swimming just fine in 1938 off the coast of South Africa. That discovery drowned notions of it evolving into a land animal, because its bony fins were not used for locomotion on the bottom in shallow waters. Instead, the fish spends much of its time in a vertical posture.

One might suppose that evolutionists would be embarrassed by this double falsification. One might hope they would turn their attention to either finding more fossils of coelacanths in the intervening layers of the fossil record, or admitting that evolution did almost nothing to these fish for allegedly 66 million years since they went extinct. Even worse, evolutionists must admit there was no major change to the coelacanth kind for 344 million years, according to their standard evolutionary timeline.

Instead, a paper in Nature Communications (open access) now alleges that living coelacanths have a vestigial organ: a lung.  This term “vestigial” has long been an embarrassment to evolutionists, because most (or all) of the hundred-some-odd vestigial organs alleged in the human body a century ago have since been found to be functional. Nevertheless, the team of international researchers uses the term freely:

Coelacanths are lobe-finned fishes known from the Devonian to Recent that were long considered extinct, until the discovery of two living species in deep marine waters of the Mozambique Channel and Sulawesi. Despite extensive studies, the pulmonary system of extant coelacanths has not been fully investigated. Here we confirm the presence of a lung and discuss its allometric growth in Latimeria chalumnae, based on a unique ontogenetic series. Our results demonstrate the presence of a potentially functional, well-developed lung in the earliest known coelacanth embryo, and its arrested growth at later ontogenetic stages, when the lung is clearly vestigial. The parallel development of a fatty organ for buoyancy control suggests a unique adaptation to deep-water environments. Furthermore, we provide the first evidence for the presence of small, hard, flexible plates around the lung in L. chalumnae, and consider them homologous to the plates of the ‘calcified lung’ of fossil coelacanths.

Live Science repeated the idea uncritically, without mentioning the embarrassments about this fish not evolving for hundreds of millions of years, then disappearing and reappearing after tens of millions of years.

It’s possible that the lung became less developed as the coelacanth moved to deeper waters, but remnants of it still exist as a vestigial organ, the researchers said. However, as the lung shrank and became useless, a fatty organ that the fish uses for buoyancy control in deep waters grew and took over the space once occupied by the lung.

But what this implies is that a more-complex organ, a lung, appeared fully formed in the fossil coelacanths, then atrophied:

This lung likely helped the fish survive in low-oxygen, shallow waters hundreds of millions of years ago, the researchers said. During the Mesozoic era, more commonly known as the dinosaur age, it’s likely that some species of coelacanth (see-leh-kanth) moved to deeper waters, stopped using their lungs and began relying exclusively on their gills to breathe, the researchers said.

PhysOrg‘s coverage didn’t mention “vestigial organs” directly, but says, “Similar to the human appendix, the organ was likely rendered defunct by evolution.” This is a common myth. A function for the appendix was found eight years ago (10/06/07, 8/21/09). It’s obvious, anyway, that evolution’s major challenge is to create function, not render it defunct.

The article did call the coelacanth a “Lazarus” taxon, “a group of animals ‘resurrected’ from extinction.” The antecedent Lazarus (a man who was in a tomb four days), it must be remembered, was raised to life by intelligent design—the divine power of Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel of John, chapter 11.

Let’s count the ways that evolutionists have bungled and mangled the story of coelacanth. (1) This large, well-adapted fish appears fully formed 410 million years ago in their timeline, the early Devonian period. (2) The Devonian is not that long after the Cambrian explosion, still a MAJOR embarrassment for evolutionism since Darwin worried about it (see Darwin’s Doubt and Darwin’s Dilemma). (3) Coelacanths thrived for 344 million years largely unchanged, with some allowance for horizontal variation. (4) Coelacanths never did evolve into land animals, despite the just-so stories evolutionists told about them, imagining their bony fins turning into legs. (5) The fish turned up in 1938 alive and well despite evolutionists’ stories that they had gone extinct with the dinosaurs. (6) The fish had not evolved in all that time, either. (7) The 66-million-year gap calls into question the evolutionary timeline itself. (8) And now, this new paper wants to resurrect the extinct evolutionary notion of “vestigial organs.”

Why should anyone trust these guys?

The fossils are hard data. The living fish are hard data. That much can be studied scientifically. The tall tales about great antiquity of these fish over millions of unobserved years are “fish stories” concocted to fit an evolutionary worldview. It’s long past time to scuttle the evolutionary gaffes and view coelacanths as beautifully designed fish.

The proper approach to coelacanth research would be to look at the alleged “vestigial lung” as a feature with an unknown function (note to evolutionists: if it functions during embryogenesis, it is not vestigial, anymore than your bellybutton is). Science should sanitize its vocabulary of debunked evolutionary verbiage like “vestigial organs” and examine things with the wisdom of Paul Nelson’s father, “If something works, it’s not happening by accident” (quote from Flight: The Genius of Birds).


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