June 7, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Extinct Marine Reptiles vs Evolution

Plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs were well designed.
Saying they evolved does not make it so.


Fossils from two orders of extinct marine reptiles have made recent news. Plesiosaurs (“near lizards”) were long-necked, air-breathing reptiles with streamlined bodies and flippers like those of sea lions; elasmosaurs (“metal plate lizards”) were the largest plesiosaurs with the longest necks. Ichthyosaurs (“fish lizards”) were more stout-bodied air-breathing predators, some of which grew to immense size. The following press releases describe surprising adaptations for their lifestyles, and even more surprising locations of some of the fossils. Nevertheless, they assert confidently without any debate or discussion that they all “evolved” from unknown land-dwelling ancestors by blind processes of chance.

Large bodies helped extinct marine reptiles with long necks swim, study finds (University of Bristol, 28 April 2022). This study of both ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs addresses the body adaptations for swimming. The Bristol scientists concluded from 3-D computer studies that a large body, rather than body shape, compensates for drag. Even with extremely long necks (some elasmosaur necks were 20 feet long) the shape of the creature was not as important as size. How did the reptiles figure these things out without knowledge of physics? They evolved.

One important finding of this research is that the large necks of extinct elasmosaurs did add extra drag, but this was compensated by the evolution of large bodies.

Tetrapods or ‘four-limbed vertebrates’, have repeatedly returned to the oceans over the last 250 million years, and they come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from streamlined modern whales over 25 meters in length, to extinct plesiosaurs, with four flippers and extraordinarily long necks, and even extinct fish-shaped ichthyosaurs.

Do they name the ancestors that “returned to the oceans” and became these expert swimmers and predators? No; nor does Wikipedia, which surely would trumpet such a fossil if one were known. Instead, Wikipedia’s entry on plesiosaurs shows only a putative ancestor with a shorter neck that was already a good swimmer.

University of Bristol’s 3D models of aquatic tetrapods used to analyze flow efficiency. Credit: S. Gutarra Díaz

In the press release, Bristol researcher Dr Benjamin Moon tells readers that “plesiosaurs with extremely long necks also had evolved very large torsos” which compensated for the extra drag. Then Professor Mike Benton adds, “the necks of these extraordinary creatures evolved in balance with the overall body size to keep friction to a minimum.” Yet this is surely a logical fallacy, because it employs purpose (teleology). There is no purpose or foresight in Darwinian theory. Can the Stuff Happens Law explain these adaptations?

Their enormous four flippers which they used to fly underwater, and variable neck lengths, have no parallel amongst living animals.

Plesiosaurs evolved awkward long necks thanks to their big bodies (New Scientist, 28 April 2022). Reporter Riley Black joined in the University of Bristol’s Darwin chorus without asking any critical questions. Whatever stuff seems difficult to happen is made possible by blind faith in the Stuff Happens Law.

Plesiosaurs had some of the most extreme necks to have ever evolved, with some species, such as Albertonectes vanderveldei, boasting 7-metre-long appendages made up of 76 vertebrae. But an ultra-long neck seems difficult for aquatic creatures like plesiosaurs to evolve, as they could hamper the ability to swim, so how did they arise? Big bodies made all the difference, according to a new analysis.

If this were a law of nature, every swimming animal would evolve a big body. And yet many sea creatures are small or tiny. Oh, that’s a strategy of evolution, too: it makes animals big except when it doesn’t, and it adapts the fluid dynamics of the small ones in other ways. Whatever happens, it evolved.


How plesiosaurs swam underwater (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, 3 June 2022). This press release goes overboard with the miraculous powers of evolution. The press release even says that stuff evolved in the course of evolution! Imagine that.

  • Plesiosaurs, which lived about 210 million years ago, adapted to life underwater in a unique way: their front and hind legs evolved in the course of evolution to form four uniform, wing-like flippers….
  • Plesiosaurs belong to a group of saurians called Sauropterygia, or paddle lizards, that re-adapted to living in the oceans. They evolved in the late Triassic 210 million years ago, lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, and became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period….
  • “Having the front legs transformed into wing-like flippers is relatively common in evolution, for instance in sea turtles. Never again, however, did the hind legs evolve into an almost identical-looking airfoil-like wing,” explains Anna Krahl, whose doctoral thesis was supervised by Professor P. Martin Sander (Bonn) and Professor Ulrich Witzel (Bochum)….
  • This unique path of evolution exemplifies the importance of paleontological research because it’s the only way we can appreciate the full range of what evolution can bring about.

Having glorified Darwin and earned her D-Merit Badge, Anna is sure to have a safe and comfortable future in the Darwin cult.

Life reconstruction of a giant ichthyosaur from the Late Triassic bulk-feeding on a school of squid.
© © Marcello Perillo/ University of Bonn

Giant marine reptiles at 2,800 meters above sea level (University of Bonn, 28 April 2022). Finding an ichthyosaur tooth in the Swiss Alps at 2,800 meters (over 9,100 feet) should strike people as odd. How did it get there? The 80-ton, 20-meter (65-foot) beast obviously did not swim up there. The evolutionists show no concern over this problem. After all, Darwin has Deep Time and as many millions of Darwin Years as needed to push ocean bottoms up onto high mountains. More important to them, whatever highly-efficient hunting traits this creature had, they evolved.

The first ichthyosaurs swam through the primordial oceans in the early Triassic period about 250 million years ago. They had an elongated body and a relatively small head. But shortly before most of them became extinct some 200 million years ago (only the familiar dolphin-like species survived until 90 million years ago), they evolved into gigantic forms.

Ichthyosaur tooth from the Swiss Alps is largest ever discovered (New Scientist, 28 April 2022). Reporter Corryn Wetzel doesn’t use the word evolution directly in her brief coverage of the tooth found by U Bonn scientists, but she implies it. In whatever manner the giants in the air, lands and seas of the Jurassic and Cretaceous arrived, there was certainly no design involved. These magnificent creatures just made their appearance on their own. (Note: ancestor fossil evidence is not needed; in Darwin Fantasyland, it can be assumed.)

Around 200 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the land, pterosaurs took to the sky and ichthyosaurs dominated the sea. The marine reptiles were fearsome predators, with individuals ranging from the size of a small porpoise to a massive sperm whale. Now, palaeontologists have discovered the largest ichthyosaur tooth to date, suggesting these creatures were even bigger than previously thought.

Giant Late Triassic ichthyosaurs from the Kössen Formation of the Swiss Alps and their paleobiological implications (Sander et al., Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 27 April 2022). The paper uses the e-word evolution and its derivatives six times, and more in the references. Whatever happened, it happened explosively fast! Everyone knows it, they suggest, and some of the fossils are exceptionally well preserved in rocks that show fine details, called lagerstätten. The Permian Extinction, they propose, turned up the speed dial on Darwinian evolution.

Rebuilding of marine ecosystems after devastation at the end of the Permian ‘invited’ multiple lineages of reptiles to the marine habitat, leading to the well-known explosive radiation of marine reptiles in the Early Triassic and early Middle Triassic (Motani, 2009; Kelley and Pyenson, 2015). The record is found in lagerstätten, laminated, typically anoxic sediments that preserve complete or partial skeletons. Two major lineages of marine reptiles were part of this explosive radiation, the ichthyosaurs and the sauropterygians (Kelley and Pyenson, 2015). Ichthyosaurs early on colonized the open ocean, explaining their occurrence throughout the northern hemisphere. Ichthyosaurs also increased in body size amazingly fast, having evolved giant forms with a skull length of 2 m within 5 Ma after their first appearance, by the early Middle Triassic (Sander et al., 2021). Throughout the Triassic, ichthyosaurs appear to dominate the world’s ocean, showing high diversity and disparity (e.g., Fröbisch et al., 2013; Thorne et al., 2011; Kelley and Pyenson, 2015).

What are the implications of this tooth? In the final Discussion section labeled “Ecological and Evolutionary Implications of Late Triassic Giant Ichthyosaurs,” the authors use the synonym “arose” for evolved. And they arose with a burst!

Gigantism arose very early on in ichthyosaurs, only a few million years after the origin of the clade in the earliest Triassic (Sander et al., 2021). Body size evolution in ichthyosaurs is best described by an early burst model, and the giant Late Triassic ichthyosaurs discussed in this study are the result of this evolutionary trend (Sander et al., 2021).

Mr. Slow-and-Gradual Darwin might have mumbled, “Hmmph; interesting” to hear about “bursty” evolution. But the speed of evolution was just window dressing to the Father of Evolutionary Theory. The goal of his writing was to replace a Creator with a naturalistic worldview where stuff just happens, all by itself. Poof! Ichthyosaurs on mountaintops. Interesting.

The Poof Spoof fits Darwinism just as well as Living Fossils, Lazarus Taxa and Extreme Stasis. “Rate heterogeneity” they call it. That means evolution can run explosively fast, moderate, slow, or not at all. How convenient for a theory to have such flexibility. It’s like Silly Putty.

Anybody open to the idea that a great Flood buried these animals instantly, and tectonic upheavals as a consequence of the Flood raised the mountains up and the ocean basins down? Is that why shark teeth and sea shells are found on mountain tops all over the earth? Hmmm; interesting.

Everyone believes in miracles anyway. Some believe in multiple improbable miracles of chance (happenstance, Lady Luck, fluke hope, random events, sheer dumb luck). Is it not better to believe in designed miracles that have an Eyewitness account and observational support for its effects? See 30 June 2017 for starters.

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