April 8, 2021 | Jerry Bergman

No Evidence for Bone Evolution

Research on the Evolution of Bones Supports Creation:
Still No Evidence for Bone Evolution



by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Bone is a defining design in vertebrate life. A new paper in Science Advances calls bone an essential part of

all vertebrate life and can undoubtedly be credited for the immense diversity of vertebrate life-styles; from swimming, to walking, to flying, bone is the material that has provided a literal scaffolding for evolutionary diversity. Despite the significance of bone, unexpectedly little is known about its evolutionary origin.[1]


Bones are made of minerals built and maintained by cells. Bone osteocyte cells serve numerous roles in the vertebrate body, including bone remodeling to renew and repair bone, mechanical sensation, and mineral homeostasis.[2] The problem for evolution is, while the “developmental relationships of the four cell types (osteoprogenitor, osteoblasts, osteocytes, and osteoclasts) in modern bone are well known, very little is known about the evolutionary origins of these cells.[3]

More than half of modern teleost (ray-finned, bony) fishes have acellular bone, called anosteocytic bone, which lacks osteocytes but employs the other bone cell types, namely osteoprogenitor, osteoblasts, and osteoclasts. Furthermore, much speculation about bone evolution exists: “bones may not have evolved, but theories of bone evolution certainly have.[4] Thus, Wagner and Aspenberg, writing in 2011, quipped that if their article on bone evolution was “written a decade ago, it would have been considerably different” from one written today, due to the many different attempts to explain bone evolution based on speculation and just-so stories.[5]

Osteocyte Importance

A goal of the research reviewed here in the Science Advances paper was to investigate evidence for the evolutionary origin of bone in some detail. The authors felt this was important, because “Despite the significance of bone, unexpectedly little is known about its evolutionary origin.” They focused particularly on the cells within bone.

Bone cells called osteocytes have three main roles: (1) orchestrating bone remodeling, (2) mechanosensing, and (3) mineral homeostasis.[6] Amazingly, anosteocytic bone, lacking the osteocytes of modern teleost fishes, displays evidence of remodeling and mechanosensing.[7] Therefore, two of the three main roles osteocytes play in bone physiology (i.e., remodeling and mechanosensing) can also be performed by anosteocytic bone.

Osteocytes are critically important to the study of bone evolution because they are the only cells whose morphology shape is reliably preserved in fossils due to their position by the cell lacunae (oblong spaces, cavities and depressions within the bone matrix).

The internal structure of bones. From Wikimedia Commons.

Attempts at Darwinizing Bone

To do this research, the team analyzed the structures of bone tissue in a marine organism dated from 350-to-400-million Darwin Years old. They used a new technique that achieves 3D resolution at the nanometer scale. The new technology uses a focused ion beam scanning electron microscope.[8] All vertebrates have an internal skeleton made up of bone which

consists of a complex composite of minerals, proteins, and living bone cells (osteocytes) entrapped in the bone matrix. The bone cells are interconnected by tiny channels so that they can exchange substances and electrochemical signals, allowing the bone to grow and regenerate.[9]

Evolution requires that “this complex architecture of live and inorganic material must have emerged at some point in the course of evolution.” What should be found in this study of two bone examples, therefore, is evidence from less-complex design that progresses to more-complex design. The researchers compared a bone sample from Tremataspis mammillata, with a much younger sample from the fish Bothriolepis trautscholdi. The Tremataspis mammillata is a jawless fish that lived about 423 million years ago, belonging to the extinct Osteostraci group, and the Bothriolepis trautscholdi lived about 380 million years ago, belonging to the earliest group of jawed fishes, the Placodermi.  What they found indicated the 400-million-year-old bones had an internal design far more complex than expected from evolutionary assumptions. Quoting the scientists involved in the research, they found that

Even in the older sample of the jawless armored fish, the 3D images display a complex network with cavities (lacunae) for the bone cells and tiny channels through the bone interconnecting these cavities. “The channels are a thousand times narrower than a human hair and yet, amazingly, they have been almost completely preserved over these 400 million years” … Elaborate analysis of the high-resolution 3D images shows in detail how the network was constructed of cavities (lacunae) and the channels between them. “This proves that our early, still-jawless ancestors already possessed bones characterized by internal structure similar to ours and probably by many similar physiological capabilities as well.”[10]

Although this study used a new technique that requires repeating to validate the findings, so far no evidence was provided from the 3D scans that supports the gradualistic evolution of bone expected by Darwinism. Like all other attempts to document evidence of the evolution of bones from non-bone tissue, this study fails at this goal. So far, the evidence reveals that the first bone was a fully functional structure very similar to the two basic modern bone types. Note how this is expressed by evolutionists: “very little is known about the morphology of the first osteocytes, which is due to the inherent limitations of the fossil record.”[11] In other words, the fossil record provided no evidence of bone evolution.

The basic parts of a bone. From Wikimedia Commons.


In an attempt to document, or at least better understand bone evolution, the research using a new cutting-edge technology found evidence for a high level of bone-cell complexity much earlier than evolution would predict. No evidence was determined from the study that bone gradually evolved from cartilage. In a review I wrote in 2019 about the evidence for the evolution of bone from non-bone, I concluded:

after almost two centuries of looking, no evidence has been forthcoming that provides meaningful help in supporting any existing theory of the evolution of bone from some pre-bone structure. The fossil record offers no evidence of transition, for example, from cartilage to bone, even though teeth and bones are, by far, the best preserved material in the fossil record.[12]

The new research reviewed above further supports my conclusion.


[1] Yara Haridy, Markus Osenberg, André Hilger, Ingo Manke, Donald Davesne, Florian Witzmann. Bone metabolism and evolutionary origin of osteocytes: Novel application of FIB-SEM tomography. Science Advances  7(14):eabb9113 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb9113, 31 March 2021, p. 1.

[2]Pascal R. Buenzli, and Natalie A. Sims, Quantifying the osteocyte network in the human skeleton, Bone 75, 144–150, June 2015.

[3] Haridy, et al., 2021, p. 1.

[4] Darja Obradovic Wagnar and Per Aspenberg, Where did bone come from? An overview of its evolution, Acta Orthopaedica 82(4):393–398, 2011.

[5] Darja and Aspenberg, 2011, p. 398.

[6] Alison H. Doherty, Cameron K. Ghalambor, and Seth W. Donahue,  Evolutionary physiology of bone:   Bone metabolism in changing environments, Physiology 30:17–29, 1 January 2015..

[7] Ron Shahar and Mason N. Dean, The enigmas of bone without osteocytes. BoneKEy Reports 2:343, May 2013.

[8] Science Daily. Insight into the evolution of bones: Modern biology considers bone cells (osteocytes) as essential for bone development and health, Science News, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210331143031.htm, 31 March 2021.

[9] Science Daily, 2021.

[10] Science Daily, 2021.

[11] Haridy, et al., 2021, p. 3.

[12] Bergman, Jerry. 2019. No Evidence for Bone Evolution, Creation Research Society Quarterly 56(1):17-25, Fall.

Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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