January 28, 2016 | David F. Coppedge

Evolutionists 98% Wrong on Desert Pupfish

Small fish living in Devil’s Hole became isolated just hundreds of years ago, not thousands.

Talk about a radical revision in science; evolutionists have been telling the public that fish in an isolated habitat called Devil’s Hole in Nevada became separated from their parent population over 10,000 years ago, and have evolved as a new species ever since. But now, just centuries?

Devil’s Hole is a water reservoir 100 meters deep in a cavern that opens to the surface. The water is almost 90° F, enough to kill most other fish in hours, but the small blue desert pupfish swim unharmed in this unique environment. Evolutionists had said they’ve been stuck there since prehistoric times. Now, based on a genetic analysis, Naturerewrites the story” of this fish species trapped in a single hole:

Many researchers thought that the fish species had been isolated in its cavern from around 13,000 years ago — the last time major flooding occurred in the region. But Christopher Martin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his colleagues say that genetic sequencing suggests that the pupfish became trapped in Devils Hole somewhere between 105 and 830 years ago — and since then has continued to exchange genes with neighbouring populations of pupfish species.

“That was the big surprise,” says Martin.  “Every few hundred years there’s a fish or two that’s moving between the desert springs.” The fish either somehow move over land, he says, or are transported as eggs stuck to the feet of water birds.

This implies that the morphological changes that characterize this species also occurred rapidly. The differences are slight; the article only lists “reduced aggression, larger eyes and missing pelvic fins” — but these are variations, not speciation traits, especially if these fish continue to exchange genes with neighboring populations.

“This is a very interesting paper, and it deals with a fascinating study system. The short timeframe of evolution is really remarkable,” says Simon Ho, a computational evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney, Australia. Ho says that the study adds to a growing body of evidence that some species might be much younger than earlier genetic comparisons had suggested, because DNA mutation rates can be very high over a short period of time.

Random mutations would certainly be mostly deleterious, however. It would seem that genetic variations in this case were pre-programmed for robustness in harsh environments. “It’s amazing the fish can survive in there for a day,” lead researcher Christopher Martin [UNC Chapel Hill] commented. Other species of pupfish survive in highly saline pools, remnants of Lake Manly that once filled Death Valley almost 600 feet deep.

The BBC News has photos of Devil’s Hole and the pupfish. The article quotes Martin giving his best guess that the fish arrived during a flood in historic times. “The ages we’ve come up with for the Devils Hole fish do overlap with the great flood of 1862, which was the largest rainfall event ever recorded for California/Nevada.” He suggests other possible means of transport, including eggs transferred on vegetation stuck to birds’ feet or directly by Native Americans.

New Scientist gives additional reasons why the story of this fish’s long evolutionary history is untenable.

“Devil’s Hole is one of the most ridiculous fish habitats I’ve seen,” says Martin. “The water temperature would kill most fish within hours.”

The fish’s continued existence puzzled him, because genetic theory predicts that such tiny populations ought to go extinct within a few hundred years because of inbreeding or bad luck [e.g., deleterious mutations or local catastrophes -Ed.].

Since they’re there, they must share genes or not be that old. And if they’re not that old, this relaxes the need to conserve them. If indeed they’ve only been isolated for an estimated 255 years, and if other fish came and went in Devil’s Hole, these fish could be “reincarnated” if they died out (from another headline on New Scientist quoting a different Dr. Martin):

If so, conservationists’ primary aim should be to preserve this process, rather than the species that is there now, says Andrew Martin, a conservation biologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The study suggests that protecting the connectivity of this region will be essential for this cycle of rebirth to continue.

Devil’s Hole is formally part of Death Valley National Park, but access is restricted to scientific research. The Nature article includes a photo of scuba divers deep in this cavern that gets no direct sunlight for two months of the year. It also mentions some of the reasoning that caused earlier scientists to expect a long isolation period:

[Christopher] Martin and his colleagues built up a family tree of pupfish species by examining differences in their DNA. To calibrate the dates of splits in this family tree, they relied partly on geological evidence from Lake Chichancanab basin in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. That basin now contains several pupfish species, but it was dry 8,000 years ago, so the species there now are likely to have diverged from the common ancestor they share with other pupfish only after that drought.

That reasoning has been falsified by the new genetic evidence. Another expert on pupfish thinks that pupfish, “among the hardiest of animals,” could have survived in isolated patches of surface water in the Yucatan basin. If so, “the forming of the basin may not have marked such a definite splitting point in the pupfish family tree.” As usual, further study will be needed, he says. Either way, “the Devils Hole pupfish are incredible fish,” Nature concludes.

The design of these incredible, hardy animals is more interesting than minor details about their pelvic fins, larger eyes or reduced aggression. Pupfish are incredible for their complex systems that could never have arisen by unguided processes. Moreover, the Creator designed creatures for robustness so that they could fill the Earth even as the environment changed. Rapid morphological adaptions to isolated environments, based on their inherent variability, exhibit forethought in a great design plan—not “selection” of random mistakes in the genes over long periods of time.

Just three years ago, an evolutionist called the Devil’s Hole pupfish “one of the most comprehensive snapshots of natural selection in the wild” (1/23/13). (Note: two years earlier, another evolutionist spoke of it as an evolutionary “burst of fireworks”—5/11/11). Once again, we see evolutionary notions of slow, gradual change over long ages to be wrong. It’s funny to think of an Indian dropping some fish in this hole while Boston patriots were getting fed up about King George’s rule in 1761, or even as recently as the year IBM incorporated in 1911.





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