February 17, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Fossils Too Detailed to Be Old

When you see exceptional preservation like this, is it credible to assume these animals lived as long ago as Darwinians claim they did?

Evolutionists have a scheme that is “set in stone” literally and figuratively. Here are fossils emerging from rock layers that evolutionists insist have been undisturbed for tens or even hundreds of millions of years, despite moving continents, natural disasters and changing climates. A lot can happen in so much time. Can time really rescue the incredible?

The Marine Mother

First live birth evidence in dinosaur relative (BBC News). Check out the artwork in Paul Rincon‘s article. Have you ever seen a neck that long? The neck is twice as long as the body! Bones of this Dinocephalosaurus, an “Archosauromorpha” (meaning, ‘ruling lizard shape’) have another secret: a baby fossilized inside the mother’s womb. Think about that. Mrs. Ruling-Lizard-Shape had to be buried fast. Even without the baby, the body would have decayed before something this large and thick could wait for sediments to gradually pile up over it. Instead of pondering the speed of burial, the scientists and reporters are focused on how this sheds light on evolution. One said, “It’s great to see such an important step forward in our understanding of the evolution of a major group coming from a chance fossil find in a Chinese field.”

But they weren’t expecting live birth in this group. A press release from the University of Birmingham announces, “Fossil discovery rewrites understanding of reproductive evolution.” The paper in Nature Communications appeals to ‘convergent evolution’ to explain this (see 2/09/17), claiming that (1) live birth evolved many times, and (2) it evolved 50 million years earlier than expected in this group.

Live birth has evolved many times independently in vertebrates, such as mammals and diverse groups of lizards and snakes. However, live birth is unknown in the major clade Archosauromorpha, a group that first evolved some 260 million years ago and is represented today by birds and crocodilians. Here we report the discovery of a pregnant long-necked marine reptile (Dinocephalosaurus) from the Middle Triassic (∼245 million years ago) of southwest China showing live birth in archosauromorphs. Our discovery pushes back evidence of reproductive biology in the clade by roughly 50 million years, and shows that there is no fundamental reason that archosauromorphs could not achieve live birth. Our phylogenetic models indicate that Dinocephalosaurus determined the sex of their offspring by sex chromosomes rather than by environmental temperature like crocodilians. Our results provide crucial evidence for genotypic sex determination facilitating land-water transitions in amniotes.

On The Conversation, Stephan Lautenschlager (U of Birmingham) says that live birth (viviparity) has evolved over 100 times independently in all different types of groups (the paper says 115 times). But since later Ruling-Lizard-Shapes laid eggs, this creates questions for evolution that he can only answer by confabulation:

The results of this study also raise several questions. Viviparity has evolved independently and numerous times in all major types of vertebrate, with mammals probably the most prominent and successful example. Although giving birth is physically and energetically taxing for the parent, it has clear advantages for the offspring, which receives extra nutrients and protection, and develops without being affected by environmental conditions.

Yet archosauromorphs evolved away from this reproductive strategy to become the egg-laying dinosaurs, and eventually crocodiles and birds that we know. Why was this? We will now have to hope that future fossil finds might reveal another piece to the evolutionary puzzle.

Lautenschlager mentions two other observations that point to rapid burial: “Remains of a partially digested fish were also found further up and between the ribs of the adult,” and also, “the mother animal was preserved in exactly this position” (the so-called “dinosaur death pose” with “with the neck and tail arched back“). This pose is typical of drowning. Interesting. How did a marine reptile that lives in water drown? The paper says this is not an exception: “in all other known adult specimens of Dinocephalosaurus, the neck curves towards the dorsal side.” Mrs. Ruling-Lizard-Shape sat there in the sediments a long time. This spectacular fossil is “one of many astonishingly well-preserved specimens from Luoping Biota sites in south-western China,” the press release says.

Pterosaur pTales

A beautifully-detailed fossil of a pterosaur’s snout lined with teeth indicates to Live Science that this species “ate like a flamingo,” as a filter-feeder of sorts, skimming the water to catch small prey. This adds to the diversity of pterosaur dietary habits, the paper in Royal Society Open Science says: “filter-feeding, fish-eating, carnivory and scavenging, herbivory including frugivory, mollusc shell-crushing (durophagy) and omnivory” (jargon for “eats everything”). Live Science mentions that “Pterosaurs initially appeared about 215 million years ago” but fails to mention there are no known pterosaur ancestors. This one had the wingspan of a great horned owl, about one meter.

A much bigger pterosaur was reported by New Scientist. This one was like a “flying T. rex” that probably snacked on dinosaurs the size of a small horse and, with its large throat, probably swallowed them whole. Be glad they aren’t flying around the school playground these days. Despite the large size of some Cretaceous pterosaurs, as big as giraffes with a 12-foot wingspan, scientists believe they could leap into the air to start flying. Incidentally, pterosaur just means ‘winged lizard.’ How would it sound if scientists used the English names?

Cambrian Softies

Hyoliths were extinct small shelly fossils abundant in Cambrian strata. The remains of 1,500 hyoliths in the Burgess Shale, 254 of which show details of their soft tissue, are described by Nature. The exquisite detail in the fossils helps resolve their membership in Lophophrata (animals characterized by a lophophore, a circular ring of tentacles around a mouth). Two aspects of these fossils pose problems for Darwinism: the exceptional preservation and the Cambrian explosion of disparate body styles early in the fossil record.

Exceptionally preserved soft tissues include an extendable, gullwing-shaped, tentacle-bearing organ surrounding a central mouth, which we interpret as a lophophore, and a U-shaped digestive tract ending in a dorsolateral anus. Together with opposing bilateral sclerites and a deep ventral visceral cavity, these features indicate an affinity with the lophophorates (brachiopods, phoronids and tommotiids), substantially increasing the morphological disparity of this prominent group.

Mollusk Mystery

Going back to 478 million Darwin Years, Live Science points to a “spiky slug” as the ancestor of mollusks, apparently solving a “long-held mollusk mystery.” Awesome; the ancestry of mollusks has been revealed, the University of Bristol claims. Mollusks comprise a very diverse group of animals that live both on land and in the water, everything from snails to octopuses. All have a ‘radula’ in common, “a kind of toothed-tongue which is used to rake up or rasp food.” Live Science calls it a “conveyor belt of rasping teeth” in the pharynx. This slug-like animal from Morocco with a fingernail-like shell over its head has been promoted to Darwin-saving status. Because it has a radula, the scientists are considering it “not dissimilar” to what might have been the ancestor of mollusks. What should surprise them even more, though is the preservation. The fossil shows a multitude of tiny spines covering its body as well as clear details of the radula. When colored, as shown in the photo, you can almost see the animal rise out of the rock.

Stephen Meyer wrote a whole book about Darwin’s Doubt, explaining how the explosion of new body plans in the Cambrian argues against Darwinism and provides prima facie evidence for intelligent design. Evolutionists, of course, reject that idea out of hand. Here’s how the discoverer of Calvapilosa kroegeri deals with the problem: “The molluscs are amongst the earliest animals identifiable in the fossil record, however determining what their ancestor looked like is difficult since many of the groups appear within a small window of time, making the sequence of evolutionary events difficult to piece together.” Uh, right. The phylogenetic chart in Nature, as usual, only shows the tips of the branches on the tree of mollusks, not the nodes. Here’s the last triumphal sentence: “This body plan gave rise to the remarkable morphological diversity characteristic of the molluscan classes—a disparity that has confounded previous attempts to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the group.

Trilobite Trails

Trilobites laid eggs! That’s exciting on two fronts: it’s the first evidence of their reproductive mode, and it shows how soft details can be preserved in fossils. There’s no excuse any longer that the Cambrian animals were preserved only because hard parts finally evolved, assuming their soft-bodied ancestors could not have fossilized. Nature mentions trilobite eggs found in upstate New York in rocks they claim are 450 million years old. The eggs are spheres only 200 millionths of a meter in diameter lying next to beautifully-preserved trilobites. Soft parts clearly could fossilize.

On the other side of the world, there’s more amazing trilobite news. Science Daily says:

Fossils found in Morocco from the long-extinct group of sea creatures called trilobites, including rarely seen soft-body parts, may be previously unseen animals that left distinctive fossil ‘footprints’ around the ancient supercontinent Gondwana….

Trilobite appendages are soft, with an outer branch which is a gill, and an inner branch used for walking and feeding. The preservation of their soft-body is extremely rare, restricted to only a couple of dozen cases, because their external ‘skin’ and internal anatomy was normally lost through scavenging and decay soon after death, or overprinted by the mineralised exoskeleton.

National Geographic was stunned, too:

In a rare find, scientists have examined guts, legs, and gills from an animal that was preserved for nearly 500 million years. The ancient soft parts are offering new insights into the behavior of trilobites, the insect-like creatures that ruled Earth’s early seas for hundreds of millions of years.

Paleontologists have identified more than 20,000 species of trilobite, but little is known about exactly how the animals moved around or what and how they ate. That’s because the soft tissues of the undercarriage are usually long gone by the time the harder exoskeletons mineralize into the distinctive alien-looking fossils.

According to evolutionists, the whole continent of Gondwana broke up and started moving around not long before these animals lived, and yet their eggs and footprints are visible today “nearly 500 million years” later. (Read about “Darwin Years” in the Darwin Dictionary.)

As stated in yesterday’s commentary, Tom Bethell made an important point about fossils in his book Darwin’s House of Cards (Discovery Institute Press, 2017). That point is this: it’s impossible to tell ancestry from fossils. He quotes Gareth Nelson, Colin Patterson, Norman Platnick and Richard Lewontin in agreement. With living organisms, you can watch one animal giving birth to another. That’s not possible with fossils. They are just isolated data points in a vast unseen landscape, like portions of auto parts scattered over the globe. Nothing about them tells what order they belong in or where they came from. Nelson describes what happens when a new fossil is discovered. Say it’s a “50-million-year-old -beetle,” he said. “It looks like it belongs to a certain family, but there may be 30,000 species in the family. What do you do? Go through all 30,000? No, you just give it an appropriate-sounding name, Eocoleoptera [“dawn beetle”], say. If it is one that has been in existence for 50 million years, somebody else will have to find that out, because you don’t have enough time. You’re out digging in the rocks, not poking through beetle collections in museums” (page 147). Apply what you just heard him say to the stories above: what is Calvapilosa kroegeri? Do evolutionists know it’s an ancestor of mollusks? Do they even know it doesn’t exist somewhere today? Do they know where it came from or what it turned into? Of course not. They give it a name, and stick it into their chosen narrative.

Here’s another logical conundrum to chew on. Earlier in chapter 12, Bethell examines a common but little-noticed fallacy of planting ancestors on nothing. Certain categories used in taxonomy and systematics describe not what they are, but what they are not. For instance, what is an invertebrate? It’s a “not-vertebrate.” But if you look at the category of “not vertebrates,” it includes everything without a backbone! A pencil is an invertebrate, and so is a tomato. If you qualify invertebrates as animals, then still you have a vast array of organisms that qualify as invertebrates, whose differences far exceed their commonality of being devoid of backbones. Neal Gillespie called these ‘voids’ and described them as things that have the function of knowledge but convey none. Even Aristotle had said, “there can be no specific forms of what is non-existent, of Featherless, for instance, or of Footless, as there are of Feathered or Footed” (p. 146). This realization influenced Colin Patterson profoundly, turning him to realize that evolution was a form of anti-knowledge. Listen to what he says and watch the light bulbs go on:

In systematics, there are pieces of evolutionary knowledge that all our heads are stuffed with, from the most general—statements like “eukaryotes evolved from prokaryotes,” or “vertebrates evolved from invertebrates,” down to lower-level statements like “man evolved from apes.” I imagine that by now you all appreciate that such statements exactly fit Gillespies’s description—’voids that have the function of knowledge, but convey none.'” (page 144).

It’s like saying ‘nucleus evolved from not-nucleus’ or ‘backbone evolved from not-backbone’ or ‘man evolved from not-man’ simply because of the categories we arbitrarily choose to put things into (e.g., Hominidae are non-human primates, or apes—’not human’ by definition).  Such exercises are vacuous; they are ‘disguised truisms,’ Bethell points out. Nature provides no such guidance. As for invertebrates, “At the end of the day, we still have no idea how to identify the species that the first vertebrate evolved from,” he says. “We are told that it was not a vertebrate—that it was an invertebrate—but we knew that already.” Think about this long enough to realize that most of evolutionary phylogeny (attempts to organize animals into ancestral trees) is a form of anti-knowledge. Bethell goes on to quote leading paleontologists like Patterson pointing out that in phylogenetic charts, all the data is at the tips of the branches. Nobody knows or sees what likes at the nodes (the branching points). This is but one flimsy card Bethell talks about in Darwin’s House of Cards.

You may be pleased to hear that Bethell referred to Creation-Evolution Headlines in his book. In his chapter on convergence (ch. 11), he pointed to our article about insect hearing that mirrors auditory systems in vertebrates (11/27/12), and footnoted it on page 269. He may have also adopted our commentary calling convergence a form of ‘Abracadabra.’ This indicates that influential people use our site as a resource. Please help spread the word about the large database of source-documented information you can find in these pages.

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