July 7, 2023 | David F. Coppedge

Early Chordate Squeezes Darwin

A new fossil chordate puts even
more bang in the Cambrian explosion


How long does it take to build a body plan by accident? The problem can be imagined by trying to write a novel by using a blind, careless random letter generator, or a software program by throwing random typos into a simple program to make it perform complex new functions. Even for those who accept Deep Time, the age of the universe would not be nearly enough (see our online book).

The Cambrian Explosion gave Darwin the biggest headaches, but now it’s worse (again). Last time we saw that there was less time than thought for evolution of animal ancestors on the starting end, before the bang. Now, there is less time on the other end of the bang. A second fossil chordate has been found estimated to be 500 million Darwin years old, adding to one even earlier. The new fossil known as a tunicate is exquisitely well preserved, even with soft tissue impressions. It looks just like modern ones alive today! This implies that any evolutionary ancestors it might have had were far earlier, close to the main pulse of the Cambrian explosion. These discoveries are squeezing Darwin from both ends, putting more bang on the main pulse of the explosion thought to be around 540 to 530 million years ago, possibly half that. In that geological blink of an eye, some 18 unique phyla—animal body plans—appeared without ancestors in the Precambrian fossil record.

The Cambrian Explosion: most animal phyla appear abruptly without ancestors at the base of the Cambrian strata. That is not slow, gradual evolution Darwin hoped fossils would show. Credit: canbedone (Adobe Stock)

A chordate is an animal body plan with a notochord, the assumed evolutionary predecessor of a backbone. All vertebrates are chordates, including humans (Vertebrata is considered a subphylum of Chordata). Chordates are considered the most advanced of the animal body plans, because they allow for internal skeletons and central nervous systems and all the body systems employed by birds, reptiles, and mammals. For decades, most evolutionists assumed the chordates evolved long after the Cambrian explosion, in the Ordovician. But when Metaspriggina, a type of fish with a notochord was found, the squeeze began. Now it just got worse.

Tunicates are shown to be chordates, because the free-swimming larva have notochords. The adult stages metamorphose into sessile filter-feeders that pump water through tubes called siphons, one for input and one for output. Before the new discovery, tunicate fossils were rare to nonexistent. There was one questionable fossil, but the new one is certain. Here’s what the press releases are saying about the new specimen that was found in a drawer of a Salt Lake City museum in 2019, but announced this week.

Half-billion-year-old sea squirt could push back origins of vertebrates, including humans (Science Magazine News, 6 July 2023). The subtitle reads, “Rare fossil looks like it died yesterday.” And yet based on the strata in which it was found, evolutionists are required to say it is 500 million years old—half a billion years old! Reporter Amanda Heidt writes about the fossil analyzed by Harvard paleontologist Karma Nanglu, principal author on the paper, and by Nicholas Treen of Princeton who was not involved in the study.

The new specimen, however, with details of its soft body preserved, is unambiguously a tunicate. “It’s really kind of glorious, the picture of this fossil,” Treen says. Nanglu and colleagues named it Megasiphon thylakos for its large siphons and saclike body (thylakos is from the Greek word for pouch). Modern tunicates use these siphons to help filter-feed and have bands of longitudinal muscles running down their bodies as well as circular muscles around the siphons to control them. The details of Megasiphon’s musculature look almost identical to those of Ciona intestinalis, a well-studied modern tunicate, Nanglu says.

So why aren’t they calling this the same species? Why name it “siphon in a pouch” and try to sound highfalutin using Latin? They couldn’t call it the same species, or it would reveal that no evolution had occurred! But it looks almost identical to the modern one. It has muscles that operate along two axes. This was no simple organism. It may even have had a beating heart:

As a tunicate matures, its siphon muscles develop from the same cells that form cardiac tissue in modern vertebrates. The muscles’ presence in Megasiphon means it may have already had something like a heart, even though its internal structures aren’t preserved. “Since you can see these atrial siphon muscles, you can almost take it for granted that there is a beating, vertebrate-like heart inside this organism,” Treen says.

To keep Darwin alive, his disciples must believe that any putative “ancestor” of this creature must have started “evolving” muscles, a heart and a body plan much earlier than 500 million Darwin years ago. That random-letter-generating novelist had even less time to create a masterpiece. Make that two novels by chance:

Megasiphon likely lived alongside a swimming, fishlike animal named Metaspriggina, dated to as old as 505 million years ago. Metaspriggina had eyes and blocks of muscle, and probably a notochord. So, by about 500 million years ago, both it and Megasiphon already have many features considered as vertebrate hallmarks, suggesting an early origin for the group.

And yet Nanglu had the chutzpah to tell the press writer that this is not a problem.

Still, Nanglu says existing fossils aren’t enough to change the story of vertebrate evolution. “Humans are naturally pulled to this question of origins, and this helps develop that story, but we need more fossil evidence,” he says. “But … answering these longstanding questions, that’s totally why we’re in it to begin with.

Bosh. Nanglu and all the other evolutionary paleontologists have plenty of fossils. The Cambrian Explosion has been known to be at odds with evolution since before Darwin, and has only gotten worse. Why can’t they admit the truth to the public? Why must they always hide their explanations in futureware, teasing readers that more fossils might support Darwin’s myth some day over the rainbow?

Darwin thought transitional forms would be found as searches for fossils continue. That was in 1859. Now, in 2023, Nanglu says that’s why “we’re in it to begin with”—i.e., still looking for the missing evidence. In any other profession, heads would roll for such spectacular failures long before 160 years of broken promises.

The fossil tunicate (left) looks identical to ones alive today (right) with muscles and all. From the Harvard press release.

500-million-year-old fossil reveals new secrets (Harvard Gazette, 6 July 2023). Evolutionists are funny. They simply cannot admit defeat. Now matter how bad the fossil evidence gets for Darwin, they put on a happy face and say that it ‘sheds light on evolution.’ Press writer Wendy Haywood knows her craft well. She writes, “Discovery of rare tunicate fossil offers surprising insights on marine animals’ evolution.” The only insight evident to clear thinkers is that evolutionists have failed. Evolutionists, however, find failure “interesting.”

Interestingly, tunicates are the closest relatives of vertebrates, which include fish, mammals, and even humans. How this odd-looking creature could be related to vertebrates would be hard to imagine were it not for that tadpole beginning. Tunicates’ close relationship to vertebrates makes studying them critical for understanding our own evolutionary origins. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to do, as tunicates are almost completely absent from the entire fossil record, with only a handful appearing convincingly as members of the group.

With so few fossils, scientists relied mainly on what could be learned from modern tunicate species. Because no one knew the morphology or ecology of the last common ancestor of the tunicates, scientists could only hypothesize that it was either a two-siphoned, benthic animal living at the sea floor, like the ascidiaceans, or a free-swimming animal like the appendicularians.

Well, this fossil is like a modern ascidiacean, with the notochord appearing in the larval stage. No amount of verbiage about classification, or busy work with microscopes, or photos of the scientists in the lab, can make up for the fact that the fossil record has pushed Humpty Darwin off the wall.

Humpty Darwin sits on a wall of foam bricks held together by decayed mortar. Cartoon by Brett Miller commissioned for CEH. All rights reserved.

Evolutionary Psychology: Delusions of Understanding

Darwinism is dead based on the fossil record. What is left of evolutionary paleontology becomes a study on psychology. Watch how the true believers in Darwin’s tale spin this colossal mistake into a sales plug to keep their jobs:

Molecular clock estimates suggest that ascidiaceans originated 450 million years ago. However, at 500 million years old, M. thylakos provides the clearest view into the anatomy of ancient tunicates and their earliest evolutionary history. Significantly, M. thylakos provides evidence that most of the modern body plan of tunicates was already established soon after the Cambrian Explosion.

The molecular clock is wrong again. We already knew that. No evolution is seen in the fossils. We knew that, too.

“Given the exceptional quality of preservation and the age of the fossil, we can actually say quite a bit about the evolutionary history of the tunicates,” said Nanglu. “This is an incredible find, as we had virtually no conclusive evidence for the ancestral modes of life for this group before this.

But this is not evidence for an ancestral mode of life at all. The fossil looks like a modern tunicate! How can he say this provides “conclusive evidence” for some mythical “evolutionary history” of tunicates, when no evolution is demonstrated? Nanglu must be on a psychedelic trip, visualizing missing ancestors between 540 and 500 million Darwin Years out of the imagination of his own heart, stubbornly clinging to a falsified myth. “We can actually say quite a bit,” Nanglu bluffs. Yes, he can and he does, but talk is cheap. He’s supposed to be a scientist, not a comedian.

A mid-Cambrian tunicate and the deep origin of the ascidiacean body plan (Nanglu et al., Nature Communications, 6 July 2023). This is the peer-reviewed paper. It’s open access so you can read about all the evidence for yourself. The paper uses the e-word evolution 18 times, but saying the word doesn’t make it true. The bulk of the Darwinese in the paper is about whether sessile ascidiaceans evolved before free-swimming appendicularians, but that is a distraction. Those are both tunicates with notochords. It’s straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Why are there any fully-formed chordates at all? And where are the ancestors of all the other 14-18 Cambrian body plans?

Within Chordata, tunicates occupy a phylogenetic position as sister-group to vertebrates, which makes them directly relevant for understanding the evolution of our subphylum. Tunicates are also characterized by enormous morphological and life history disparity that complicates understanding their origins in deep time.

Focus on that word “understanding.” What have they demonstrated about understanding the origins of anything in deep time? Nothing. And the situation is likely to get worse with new Cambrian fossil deposits. Watch their hope for “understanding” again:

The increasingly frequent discovery of new localities such as Marble Canyon, Qingjiang and Haiyan are routinely redefining our picture of early metazoan communities and our understanding of the early stages of animal diversification. In this context, the lesser studied Cambrian Lagerstätten of Utah—namely the Spence Shale, Wheeler Formation, Weeks Formation, and Marjum Formation from which M. thylakos originates—represent potential wellsprings of critical evolutionary, ecological, and taphonomic insights into the dynamics of the Cambrian world and the early diversification of animals.

Someday their evidence for evolution will show up, in other words. Every fossil deposit has been “routinely redefining” their alleged understanding. That kind of understanding is not understanding at all.

Update 7/10/23: Look at this: right after our article was posted, the editors at Live Science must have decided a response was required from the Darwin faithful. Without mentioning CEH—but using the very same graphic and referring to the same paleontologist (Karma Nanglu)—reporter Amanda Heidt wrote an article titled, “Did the Cambrian explosion really happen?” as if to assure Lie Science’s readers that secular scientists are on top of this “unique” event that challenged Darwin. She appeals to moving continents and a rise in oxygen (see my articles at Evolution News about this). In other words, oxygen and continents built 18 new animal body plans! “During this time, oxygen levels in the ocean increased, and there was a greater proportion of warm, shallow, tropical coastline,” she concludes; “the perfect conditions for new species to evolve and later be fossilized in.” This is the old “if you build it they will come” theory of evolution. Give microbes land and fresh air, and the Spirit of Darwin will call out, “Go forth and become animals! Invent eyes and jointed legs! Grow guts and muscles!” If that isn’t magical thinking, what is?

Can any scientific community be trusted that has demonstrated so little understanding of the world for over a century and a half? It’s way past time for a different community of researchers who are not shackled to Deep Time and Darwin’s Stuff Happens Law to be given a fair hearing by the media. And if Deep Time is wrong—as illustrated by a modern tunicate identical to one said to be 500 million years old that looks like it “died yesterday”—then this two-century-long detour into Deep Time Darwin Fantasyland has been a colossal waste of time.

Exercise: Read what Solomon said about understanding.







(Visited 398 times, 1 visits today)


  • tjguy says:

    “Evolutionists are funny. They simply cannot admit defeat. Now matter how bad the fossil evidence gets for Darwin, they put on a happy face and say that it ‘sheds light on evolution.’”

    This is so true! When it comes down to it, evidence does not really matter. No matter what they find – no matter how unlikely the data shows evolution to be – the keep on believing. There really is NOTHING that would ever falsify because they just keep tweaking it to try to account for the data, OR, when this is difficult, they just put it off to the future, desperately hoping that someday over the rainbow, real undeniable evidence, evidence that undeniably supports their story, will be found.

    It just shows their commitment to their worldview and how strongly they BELIEVE in it.

    In the end, we all have faith!

Leave a Reply