October 8, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Empirical Test of the Rafting Hypothesis

Evolutionists claim large mammals like monkeys made it across oceans on rafts of vegetation. Here was a chance to test the idea.

“This has turned out to be one of the biggest, unplanned, natural experiments in marine biology, perhaps in history,” said co-author John Chapman of Oregon State University. —Science Daily

The earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 created one of the biggest tsunamis in recorded history. Television viewers watched in horror as whole towns were inundated and large fields of debris were swept out to sea. Awful as it was, it provided a test of a hypothesis that evolutionists use to overcome problems with biogeography. New World monkeys, for instance, are similar to the ones in Africa, but how did they get there? They could not have evolved separately, Darwinians say, so they must have crossed the Atlantic on rafts of debris (4/27/15).

In Science Magazine, Carlton et al observed what happened to debris after the Japan tsunami. In “Tsunami-driven rafting: Transoceanic species dispersal and implications for marine biogeography,” they say:

The 2011 East Japan earthquake generated a massive tsunami that launched an extraordinary transoceanic biological rafting event with no known historical precedent. We document 289 living Japanese coastal marine species from 16 phyla transported over 6 years on objects that traveled thousands of kilometers across the Pacific Ocean to the shores of North America and Hawai’i. Most of this dispersal occurred on nonbiodegradable objects, resulting in the longest documented transoceanic survival and dispersal of coastal species by rafting. Expanding shoreline infrastructure has increased global sources of plastic materials available for biotic colonization and also interacts with climate change–induced storms of increasing severity to eject debris into the oceans. In turn, increased ocean rafting may intensify species invasions.

Plastic should have provided a better opportunity for transport because of its longer half-life:

Rafted anthropogenic debris also differs strikingly from natural rafts. Natural long-distance ocean rafting consists of largely ephemeral, dissolvable, or decomposable materials, including biodegradable terrestrial vegetation (trees, root masses, and seeds) and pumice, all with far shorter at-sea half-lives than fiberglass, polystyrene, and polyvinyl chloride–based objects. Despite the tsunami-induced loss of large expanses of forests on the northeast Honshu coast, few stranded Japanese trees, typically with few attached species, were observed in North America or Hawai’i. Most trees may have stayed on land or washed ashore in Japan, or may have sunk before undergoing or completing ocean transit. Further, building wood, which had commenced arrival in large quantities in 2013 (also with relatively few species) (Fig. 3A), largely tapered off by 2014 (Fig. 2 and fig. S2). This highly constrained, largely 2- to 3-year (2011 to 2014) at-sea existence of wooden JTMD [Japanese tsunami marine debris] is due in large part to destruction by wood-destroying teredinid mollusks (shipworms) [(5) and Fig. 1D]. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, before 2012 there are no reports of Western Pacific vegetation or wood arriving with communities of living Japanese species in either the Hawaiian Islands or North America, despite >150 years of shore observations by scientists, suggesting that such events are rare.

The Japanese tsunami, with its abundant plastic rafts, sounds like a huge opportunity for biological transport. There are two problems with applying this prehistorically, however: (1) there was no plastic in the ancient world, and (2) the largest animals were small. “Five invertebrate groups (mollusks, annelids, cnidarians, bryozoans, and crustaceans) composed 85% of the species diversity of macrobiota,” they say. Most of these are already marine-adapted creatures (2/13/16). No monkeys or other land vertebrates took the tsunami express. Not even ants used it (11/04/16).

If empirical evidence counts for anything, these results should constitute strong falsification of the rafting hypothesis for large animals. Under ideal conditions, only small marine animals crossed the oceans, and that on man-made, non-biodegradable things like plastic. How much less could monkeys ride on natural rafts?


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  • Buho says:

    Evolutionists and creationists become strange bedfellows with the rafting hypothesis. Here you express doubt on the plausibility of rafting, with one study to back it up, yet some creationists posit rafting as one possible method of dispersion after the Flood. The Flood could have created larger floating biomats that work better than the little islands of plastic in this study.

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