March 25, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Sponging on Fossils for Evolution

They’re not sponges. They’re just minerals.
They didn’t evolve. They don’t help Darwin.


A group of scientists has warned colleagues that hyped reports of sponge fossils dating back hundreds of millions of years might not have anything to do with sponges or the evolution of life. In a preprint on bioRxiv dated 10 March 2022, Neuweiler et al. say that “Keratose sponges in ancient carbonates” present “a problem of interpretation.” They begin with why this subject is important:

Increasing current interest in sponge fossils includes numerous reports of diverse vermicular and peloidal structures interpreted as keratose sponges in Neoproterozoic to Mesozoic carbonates and in various open marine to peritidal and restricted settings. Reports of their occurrence are fundamental and far-reaching for understanding microfacies and diagenesis where they occur; and fossil biotic assemblages, as well as wider aspects of origins of animals, sponge evolution/ecology and the systemic recovery from mass extinctions.

The Neoproterozoic is the last era of the Precambrian in the geologic column, going back a billion Darwin Years. The earlier that paleontologists can claim to find animal fossils, the more they can claim that multicellular life got an early start. Even though sponges are the simplest of animals, Darwinians feel that this helps muffle the Cambrian explosion. For example, a report in last year (28 July 2021) announced putative sponge fossils in Canada alleged to be 890 million years old. That would be far earlier than the Cambrian explosion believed to have occurred 540 million years ago.

The authors explain why these fossils require interpretation:

Keratose sponges: 1) have elaborate spongin skeletons but no spicules, thus lack mineral parts and therefore have poor preservation potential so that determining their presence in rocks requires interpretation; and 2) are presented in publications as interpreted fossil structures almost entirely in two-dimensional (thin section) studies, where structures claimed as sponges comprise diverse layered, network, particulate and amalgamated fabrics involving calcite sparite in a micritic groundmass.

The structures interpreted as sponges could be non-biological, they go on to say.

There is no verification of sponges in these cases and almost all of them can be otherwise explained; some are certainly not correctly identified. The diversity of structures seen in thin sections may be reinterpreted to include: a) meiofaunal activity; b) layered, possibly microbial (spongiostromate) accretion; c) sedimentary peloidal to clotted micrites; d) fluid escape and capture resulting in birdseye to vuggy porosities; and e) molds of siliceous sponge spicules.

Those who rush to announce sponge fossils are, therefore, failing to be critical thinkers. They might be making too much of ambiguous material.

Without confirmation of keratose sponges in ancient carbonates, interpretations of their role in ancient carbonate systems, including facies directly after mass extinctions, are unsafe, and alternative explanations for such structures should be considered. This study calls for greater critical appraisal of evidence, to seek confirmation or not, of keratose sponge presence.

“Greater critical appraisal of evidence” is certainly a good principle in any kind of science.

Unfortunately, in Darwinism there is little tolerance for critical appraisal, especially when it comes from those who are skeptical of the ability of the Stuff Happens Law to build brains from sponges. Some people’s brains resemble sponges, but one should not interpret that as evidence of evolution.

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Categories: Fossils, Marine Biology

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