June 12, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

The Coelacanth: A Case of Scientific Obscurantism

This fish hasn’t evolved for 66 million Darwin Years and is a classic “living fossil.” We get a Darwin fish story anyway.

By all accounts, the coelacanth (Latimeria) is a strange fish among an ocean of strange fish. (For another strange fish, watch this video clip of the hairy frogfish, which has the fastest bite in the animal kingdom.) Strange, indeed. The coelacanth (pronouned see-la-canth) is unique for its bony fins, and its cranial development and brain. Its neurocranium is divided into two lobes connected by an intracranial joint. If that detail is only worth a yawn, consider this: the fish is a classic living fossil.

Before 1938, evolutionists told people that the coelacanth went out with the dinosaurs, having gone extinct 66 million Darwin Years ago. That was before a living coelacanth was found off the coast of Africa. It was as if a “Lazarus fish” had returned from the dead! Scientists were astonished. Coelacanths and their relatives, the sarcopterygians, were well known from the fossil record, but here was one alive and well, with not a single known fossil in between all those alleged millions of years and the present.

This is certainly the most important fact about the coelacanth, but it gets worse for Darwinians. The fish was still like its fossil precursors, having stayed the same all that time. During those alleged tens of millions of years, evolutionists claim there was a bird explosion, a mammal explosion, and other extreme diversifications. In just a fraction of that time, a land mammal evolved into whales and apes evolved into humans. Yet here was coelacanth, just the same as ever. Another problem for evolution is that the fish was not evolving feet. Evolutionists had speculated that the bony fins of the coelacanth were on the way to becoming limbs that could support the fish in shallow water or on land, as it was evolving into a tetrapod. To their disappointment, living coelacanths were found to spend much of their time in an upright posture in deep water, not using their fins for any kind of walking.

Coelacanth on display at Wyoming Dinosaur Center (DFC)

Testing the Darwin Media

Given these important facts about this fish, will a new paper in Nature about coelacanth evolution mention any of them? What will 10 Darwinian biologists have to say about this anti-evolutionary evidence in a paper entitled, “Neurocranial development of the coelacanth and the evolution of the sarcopterygian head”? Watch for it:

The neurocranium of sarcopterygian fishes was originally divided into an anterior (ethmosphenoid) and posterior (otoccipital) portion by an intracranial joint, and underwent major changes in its overall geometry before fusing into a single unit in lungfishes and early tetrapods. Although the pattern of these changes is well-documented, the developmental mechanisms that underpin variation in the form of the neurocranium and its associated soft tissues during the evolution of sarcopterygian fishes remain poorly understood. The coelacanth Latimeria is the only known living vertebrate that retains an intracranial joint. Despite its importance for understanding neurocranial evolution, the development of the neurocranium of this ovoviviparous fish remains unknown. Here we investigate the ontogeny of the neurocranium and brain in Latimeria chalumnae using conventional and synchrotron X-ray micro-computed tomography as well as magnetic resonance imaging, performed on an extensive growth series for this species. We describe the neurocranium at the earliest developmental stage known for Latimeria, as well as the major changes that the neurocranium undergoes during ontogeny. Changes in the neurocranium are associated with an extreme reduction in the relative size of the brain along with an enlargement of the notochord. The development of the notochord appears to have a major effect on the surrounding cranial components, and might underpin the formation of the intracranial joint. Our results shed light on the interplay between the neurocranium and its adjacent soft tissues during development in Latimeria, and provide insights into the developmental mechanisms that are likely to have underpinned the evolution of neurocranial diversity in sarcopterygian fishes.

A search on the word evolution shows only suppositions about what might have evolved from what. But the coelacanth is unique! It does not appear to be evolving from something else into something else. How many times do the authors mention the most important facts about this fish?

  • Living fossil: zero times
  • Lazarus taxa: zero times
  • Extinction in the Cretaceous: zero times
  • Reappearance after 66 million years: zero times
  • Not evolving into another form: zero times
  • Natural selection: zero times

Figure 4 in the paper shows how the coelacanth skull compares with other fish. It looks completely different! This fish’s anatomy is one of a kind, not evolving into any of the other putatitive descendant forms (lungfish and tetrapods).

The authors might be excused as having only focused their research on the intracranial joint of this fish’s unusual skull. The excuse rings hollow, though, since the title of the paper mentions the evolution of this fish, and the word evolution gets 14 hits. A press release from ESRF, “Coelacanth reveals new insights into skull evolution,” states one sentence about the living fossil, but then jumps right into evolutionary propaganda, saying, “Latimeria remains of scientific interest for understanding the origin of tetrapods and the evolution of their closest fossil relatives – the lobe-finned fishes.”

Does Might Make Right?

In order to conjure up evolution to save Darwin, the authors of the paper ratchet up the perhapsimaybecouldness index. Watch the placeholders for imagination mount up, if you can stay awake:

  • The development of the notochord observed in Latimeria appears to affect the adjacent tissues, and might underpin the complete division of the neurocranium.
  • We therefore suggest that the intracranial joint probably results from the configuration of the brain as imposed by the notochord.
  • The marked expansion of the notochord thus probably causes a major spatial packing constraint on the brain, and anteriorly restricts the growth of the hypophyseal and orbital regions, which might drive the allometric growth and elongation of the brain.
  • The similarities between the endocranium of Latimeria pups and those of stem-sarcopterygians suggest that this developmental pattern is ancestral to the group, whereas brain shape appears to match that of the endocranium in fossil actinopterygians and stem-osteichthyans.
  • …the ventral expansion of the brain and the higher brain-to-body mass ratio in extant lungfishes and tetrapods (Fig. 4) might have been permitted by the progressive reduction and displacement of the notochord posterior to the otic capsule during the evolution of each of these lineages…
  • …the displacement of the entire brain into the otoccipital portion, which occurs relatively late during the development of Latimeria, might result from biomechanical constraints linked to the intracranial joint.

The press release quotes one author admitting, “There are still more questions than answers!” (exclamation in the original). With promissory notes in hand, they expect the public to keep trusting them, because the new data will surely “open up new avenues for research on the evolution of the vertebrate head.”

This paper is a prime example of teaching evolution by obfuscation. One might learn some things about fish cranial anatomy in this paper, but nothing about evolution. To obfuscate means to “confuse, bewilder, or stupefy” by making things obscure or unclear. The paper obfuscates in more than one way. First, it ignores the most significant facts about coelacanth evolution: that they did not evolve! Second, it teaches evolution by the Jargonwocky method. Readers are overwhelmed with jargon that is promised to “shed light” on the evolution of this fish, all the while keeping readers in the dark about its status as a living fossil. Third, it commits the non-sequitur fallacy, pretending that a very unique fish with a unique cranium will somehow “provide insights into the developmental mechanisms that are likely to have underpinned the evolution” of coelacanths. A unique set of traits has nothing to do with connecting the dots between species.

The only “likely” thing about this paper is that few will notice the snow job the authors committed. That’s why we’re here: to unmask the deceitfulness of the Darwinists. We explain not only what they say, but what they fail to say. If you appreciate this, please share the links on social media and support us.


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