May 6, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Unique Fossils Defy Evolution

When fossils are found of one-off creatures without apparent relatives, how could Darwinism explain that?

God must have a sense of humor. Sometimes it seems He likes to confuse the experts who want to explain everything without Him. Here are three fossil discoveries of strange beasts that just don’t fit a nice, smooth, gradual sequence of evolution.

Tully Monster

This creature defies classification. It is bizarre enough to almost make you believe space aliens planted it here; the artist drawing shows why. About a foot long, the “Tully monster” looked a bit like some kind of fish, but its eyes are at the ends of a thin stem perpendicular to the head, and in front it has a grasping claw at the end of an extended snout. Along its side are holes (assumed to be gills) resembling windows on a submarine. Nothing else on the planet looks quite like it, although some extinct Cambrian arthropods bore similarities to parts of it.

Ever since amateur fossil collector Francis Tully discovered the monster’s remains in 1958, researchers looking at the anatomy have interpreted the beast to be all kinds of things, including a vertebrate, an invertebrate, a shell-less snail, a type of worm, a jawless fish and an arthropod, or a member of a group that includes insects, spiders and lobsters.

Tully monster (Credit: Sean McMahon/Yale University)

Fossils of the “Tully Monster” (Tullimonstrum gregarium) number over a thousand now; in fact, it is the state fossil of Illinois; but taxonomists have not agreed on what major category (phylum) to put it in. Now, according to Live Science, a case has been made that it is a vertebrate. That’s because scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison using in situ Raman microspectroscopy detected collagen (a protein indicative of vertebrate skin) instead of chitin (a protein indicative of arthropod exoskeleton). Not everyone is convinced yet, but that seems to be a growing consensus that the creature had a backbone. New Scientist mentions evolution only once, and that by suggestion:

McCoy believes the Tully Monster’s closest living relatives are jawless fish like lampreys and hagfish, and it may have evolved its peculiar body as an adaptation to a specialised lifestyle such as picking worms out of the sea floor.

That, however, makes no evolutionary sense. An animal cannot choose its lifestyle and then arrange for chance mutations to give it structures that would help it adapt to that lifestyle. There are way too many specializations, different from jawless fish, for that to have occurred within the capabilities of random luck to find the right mutations within the available time. Getting even two coordinated mutations, Richard Sternberg calculated in the documentary Living Waters, would require more time than the assumed age of the earth.


Larger than T. rex, Spinosaurus has evolved (in the paleontologists’ taxonomy) from runner to swimmer. For the first time, paleontologists excavated a complete tail of the impressive beast that had been known from only a single specimen. Thin bones extending up and down along the tail suggested to the the scientists that it was like a fin that helped the animal propel itself through offshore waters looking for fish dinners. That would make it the only known aquatic dinosaur, Nature News says. Ironically, the bones were found in one of the driest places on Earth today: the Sahara desert.

The artist’s conception shown in Live Science, however, goes far beyond the evidence, portraying it as a champion swimmer with jaws open going after large sawfish. Experiments on thrust with a reconstructed tail show it might have been much more efficient at paddling water than a typical dinosaur tail, but lifestyle behaviors are hard to infer from bones buried in Morocco sand. Also, swimming ability would require many other adaptations for such a heavy animal with thick legs. That’s the problem with visualization: it can stimulate imagination that cannot bear the weight of evidence.

The coverage at New Scientist is more reserved about the swimming ability of Spinosaurus.

“I don’t think it was very fast or agile in water,” says Sereno. “Many aspects of its body form and feet are not suitable for aquatic speed or agility,” he says. Spinosaurus was around 15 metres long, 3 metres longer than T. rex, making it likely the largest carnivorous dinosaur. It also had a large sail on its back.

None of the articles speculated about the evolution of Spinosaurus. It has other strange features, like the sail on its back and heavy, hind legs with dense bones. It looks like a unique dinosaur unrelated to other species (see 13 Sept 2014 and 8 November 2014).

Crazy Beast

A third one-off fossil is a mammal from the age of dinosaurs, given the name Adalatherium, which means “crazy beast,” according to the BBC News. Maybe it’s called crazy for its skill at debunking old myths.

Its discovery challenges previous assumptions that mammals were generally very small – the size of mice – at this point in their evolutionary history.

Researchers say this individual animal weighed 3kg (6.6lbs) and had not reached its full adult size….

Its discovery “bends and even breaks lots of rules”, said David Krause of Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who led the research.

The fossil was found on the island of Madagascar in 1999, but was described last week in Nature. It had a history, for sure, since this particular badger-like creature is no longer found. But why must it be called an “evolutionary history”? It appeared. It disappeared. Where’s the evolution?

Two points can help interpret these unique animals within a Biblical creation context. First, the world is impoverished today from the tremendous diversity shown in the fossil record. Second, there would have been plenty of room for many more animals and plants. A pterosaur’s-eye view down onto the land would not have exhibited dinosaurs standing shoulder to shoulder; they would have been spread out with a lot of room, just as large mammals don’t crowd the African plains today. The Flood would have wiped out most species and preserved the basic kinds, but all the dinosaurs eventually died in the post-Flood world, probably hunted to extinction by man relatively quickly.

Evolutionists are not in a better interpretive position. They realize that abrupt appearance, stasis, and extinction don’t follow Darwin’s pattern. The transitional forms Darwin craved did not show up. Their scarcity is illustrated by the enthusiastic hype from the Darwin News Media when an occasional candidate for a ‘missing link’ shows up.

These three one-off fossils do not show a gradual Darwinian sequence from ancestor to descendant. They just are. We can take them as they are, and marvel at their design and complexity. We can talk about their success as creatures without calling it “evolutionary success.” We can talk about their history without calling it “evolutionary history.” We can enjoy amazing animals from the past without giving Darwin credit he doesn’t deserve.

Did anybody notice the mention of collagen in the Tully monster? Could that protein have lasted 307 million years? Only if they are Darwin years. Those were invented in Darwin’s magic kingdom, where when you wish upon a star, miracles happen – given enough time.



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