March 12, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Lamprey Larvae Are Not Vertebrate Ancestors

Another case of Haeckel-like recapitulation turns out to be false. Lamprey larvae are not relics of our ancestors.

Sea lamprey mouth

Modern lampreys have a curious life cycle. The adults are grouped with cyclostomes (“round mouth”) or jawless fishes. The circular mouths of some species are lined with teeth that allow them to fasten themselves to large fish like sharks and whales and live as parasites on them. (The “teeth” are not true teeth but are “horny epidermal structures that function as teeth.”) Resembling eels, lampreys are vertebrates, but their larvae look very different from the adults.

The larvae of some species are tiny and spawn in fresh water. Blind at birth, they bury themselves and live as filter feeders, whereas the adults usually live in the ocean (and many are carnivorous or parasitic). Because the larvae of some species resemble the lancelet (Amphioxus), which are chordates but lack backbones, Darwinians for many years have thought that the larvae of lampreys are evolutionary throwbacks to the ancestor of all vertebrates. This belief has been taught in textbooks for many years. It was wrong.

Long-accepted theory of vertebrate origin upended by fossilized lamprey larvae (Canadian Museum of Nature). As usual, the headline fails to say who “long accepted” this theory of vertebrate origins; be confident, though that it was evolutionists who accepted it. Be as confident that they will never apologize for misleading the public for many years with their “evolutionary narrative.”

The researchers say that these results run counter to the 150-year-old evolutionary narrative that modern lamprey larvae, with their curious life cycle, offer a glimpse of deep ancestral vertebrate conditions. By demonstrating that ancient lampreys never went through the same blind, filter-feeding stage seen in modern species, the researchers have falsified the conventional ancestral model shared in textbooks.

This “evolutionary narrative” began 150 years ago, when Ernst Haeckel’s Recapitulation Theory or “Biogenetic Law” was popular. Haeckel taught that organisms relive (recapitulate) their evolutionary history as they develop. The lamprey larva, therefore, was thought to go through the evolutionary stage when the invertebrate lancelet was evolving into a vertebrate fish. Textbooks took up the narrative as a “conventional ancestral model” without checking.

To falsify that narrative, Michael Coates, Rob Gess, Tetsuto Miyashita and Kristen Tietjin examined fossils of four extinct species of lamprey, including tiny larval stages. None of them went through that pseudo-recapitulating “filter feeder” stage of the modern lamprey; they all looked like miniature adults, complete with large eyes and toothed suckers.

If so, then why do modern lamprey larvae appear so primordial? The team suggests that the evolution of filter-feeding larvae may have been an innovation that allowed lampreys to populate rivers and lakes. Fossil lampreys reported in the new study all came from marine sediments, but modern lampreys, with their filter-feeding, blind larvae, mostly live in freshwater.

As explained 10 March 2021, this new ‘evolutionary narrative’ is also fallacious. No mutation “evolves to” do something, because that would imply a plan or goal. Modern lampreys did not plan or ‘innovate’ the filter-feeding larval lifestyle in order to allow them to populate rivers and lakes. Instead, groups of different lampreys may have always differed in their developmental lifestyles, depending on their habitats. Alternatively, the filter-feeding lifestyle of modern lampreys could be a reduction of information. Miyashita commented, “you don’t have to be too complicated for this kind of lifestyle.”

There are 38 species of lamprey, of which only 18 are parasitic. Like salmon, some lampreys migrate from the sea to fresh water to breed. They are among the most efficient swimmers.

Darwin Carries On

As usual, though, the media never allow a falsification of a Darwinian narrative to cast doubt on Darwinism itself. Instead, the Darwin Party comes up with a new narrative.

The researchers say that this is the sort of discovery that can rewrite textbooks. “Lampreys are not quite the swimming time capsules that we once thought they were,” said Coates. “They remain important and essential for understanding the deep history of vertebrate diversity, but we also need to recognize that they, too, have evolved and specialized in their own right.

In order to pacify worrying evolutionists, Coates and the team turned their attention to ostracoderms (“shell skinned”) armored jawless fish as new candidates for the ancestors of vertebrates.

After their examination of the fossil record, the researchers now believe that extinct armored fishes known as ostracoderms might instead represent better candidates for the root of the vertebrate family tree, whereas modern lamprey larvae are a more recent evolutionary innovation.

The team published their findings in Nature March 10, 2021.

Put the new ostracoderm narrative in the textbooks until the next falsification. By convention, Darwin’s web of belief is immune to contrary evidence, so it will always survive. That is, it will survive until enough people get fed up with this pseudo-scientific practice of endless storytelling.


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