June 6, 2024 | David F. Coppedge

Evolution No Help in Explaining Extinct Giants

Expecting an evolutionary biologist
help explain things is like calling
on a shaman for understanding


Last year we gave a collection of giant extinct animals that dwarf their living counterparts (20 March 2023). The year before that, we considered some evolutionary explanations for gigantism (12 Jan 2022). Giants are hard to evolve, we said, because all the body parts have to coordinate their growth from embryo to massive adult. Here was their basic answer: changes in the environment “allowed” these animals to grow large. Have the evolutionary shamans gotten any better at explaining facts of biology past and present? Let’s look at some more examples in recent news.

Gigantic Jurassic pterosaur fossil unearthed in Oxfordshire (University of Leicester, 3 June 2024). The British Isles have hosted another giant wing-lizard (pterosaur). “A team of palaeontologists has discovered a fossil of a gigantic flying reptile from the Jurassic period with an estimated wingspan of more than three metres – making it one of the largest pterosaurs ever found from that era.” Some Cretaceous pterosaurs had wingspans of 10 meters, they say; for a Jurassic pterosaur, this one was “huge.”

Consider the engineering required to build a flying machine that large, and then think about the requirements to have it grow from an egg. Do the evolutionary paleontologists offer any help to explain this wonder of nature? All they say here is that pterosaurs “appeared.” Pterosaurs “achieved spectacularly large sizes almost immediately after they first appeared in the Middle Jurassic.” Thanks to evolution, now you understand.

Geologist, Dr James Etienne, discovered the specimen while hunting for fossil marine reptiles in June 2022 when the Late Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation was temporarily exposed in the floor of a quarry. This revealed a number of specimens including bones from ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs and other ancient sea creatures including ammonites and bivalves, marine crocodiles and sharks.

Pterosaurs appeared out of nowhere in the fossil record— fully formed, already flying. Incidentally, fossils show that all these other animals (ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, ammonites, bivalves, crocodiles and sharks) grew to much larger sizes than their counterparts today.

Huge cheetah that roamed China 1 million years ago would have stood face to face with a tiger (Live Science, 4 June 2024). Cheetahs mainly inhabit sub-Saharan Africa today, and are generally smaller than lions and tigers. Here’s a “huge” fossil cheetah found in China that was as big as a tiger and weighed three times as much as modern cheetahs. “Extinct colossal cat Acinonyx pleistocaenicus was the biggest species of cheetah to have ever lived, scientists reveal.” Let’s call on the evolutionary shaman to explain where it came from and how it got so big.

At one of the sites, the researchers also identified another species of extinct cheetah, A. intermedius, which they think is a distinct species — not just a smaller descendant of A. pleistocaenicus. This indicates the hulking beast. A. pleistocaenicus was likely replaced by the smaller cheetah species. 

“We hope our study can provide more information on the evolution and dispersal of the cheetah, highlighting the past success of this amazing lineage of cat in Eurasia,” Jiangzuo said.

What did the reporter say? Today’s smaller cheetahs (which are in danger of extinction by inbreeding) and another extinct lineage “replaced” the successful big cats of the past! That’s devolution, not evolution.

Does the linked paper in Quaternary Science Reviews offer any insight? Yes: cheetahs “appeared” just like pterosaurs did. “The first Eurasian Acinonyx appeared in the latest Pliocene-earliest Pleistocene, in both Europe, central, and eastern Asia.” And alongside them, giant cave bears and giant short-faced hyenas “appeared” on the earth.

What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for Candor

Ancient geese stood 3 metres tall and weighed as much as a cow (New Scientist, 3 June 2024). As far back as 2006, we were reporting about “terror birds” ten feet tall (26 Oct 2006). In 2013, scientists were thinking they might have been vegan. Now, a new skull discovery shows that some species were more like giant geese.

The team was mainly convinced by the anatomy of the beak and skull, including the arrangement of muscles and modifications to the bone where they attach. The structure in Genyornis is near-identical to that of an old waterfowl lineage, the South American screamers. This structure is extremely complex and is unlikely to have evolved independently, says McInerney.

Skull of prehistoric ‘giant goose’ discovered in Australia (BBC News, 4 June 2024). As usual, all the Big Science News outlets came out with the prepared artwork on the same day the embargo was lifted (see “The Science Media Racket” 11 Jan 2016). Nothing said about what the goose evolved from. It was already a waterfowl, and was just there with other giants.

Genyornis newtoni is a relative of the Australian magpie goose but evolved before them in a separate lineage and is more closely related to the South American screamer species.

Unravelling its relationship to other species had been complex, Dr McInerney said, but the new find had enabled researchers to start to “piece together the puzzle, which shows, simply put, this species to be a giant goose”.

The last of the large, flightless mihirungs, or thunderbirds, native to Australia, they roamed the outback at the same time as other giant creatures, including lizards and kangaroos, and when the first humans arrived, about 50,000 years ago.

‘Giga-goose’ shows its face (Flinders University, 4 June 2024). This press release by some of the Aussie scientists who found the bones contains a phylogenetic tree of where Genyornis fits in the evolutionary scheme, but offers no transitional forms and basically stuffs the bird into a preconceived evolutionary family tree (circular reasoning). The diagram of specialized bones in the article, though, speaks of complex adaptations for the bird’s needs. This bird was five times the weight of a modern cassowary. How, and why, did it evolve into a giant?

New fossils show what Australia’s giant prehistoric ‘thunder birds’ looked like – and offer clues about how they died out  (The Conversation, 4 June 2024). The authors wrote here, too. One section is subtitled, “How did Genyornis evolve?” Well, it’s complicated.

The fossil record for dromornithids extends back to at least 55 million years ago, though their origin is certainly more ancient. Although Genyornis existed relatively recently, this long evolutionary history, paired with a shortage of older fossils, has made understanding dromornithid evolution very complex.

In other words, all they have to go on is the complete giant goose. The rest is inference about what it might have evolved from, based on their imaginations: “skull features that dromornithids share with ducks and geese are likely linked to the early evolution of waterfowl from a more chicken-like ancestor.” Likely to whom? To evolutionists! That’s more circular reasoning.

Skull morphology of the enigmatic Genyornis newtoni  (McInerny et al., Historical Biology, 3 June 2024). Here is the foundational research paper for all the guesswork in the popular media. It mentions “evolution” 100 times. But as is common with evolutionary literature, the arguments are held together with Darwin Flubber (i.e., suggesting “convergent evolution” six times) and a high perhapsimaybecouldness index, saying dozens of times how they feel the big bird “likely” evolved (see excerpt below*).

Another Example of Useless Darwinese

Easterners in the USA have undoubtedly been hearing the steady whine of billions of cicadas. Has evolutionary theory helped explain the phenomenon of insects counting to 13 or 17 years to emerge simultaneously for just a few weeks to sing, mate, and lay their eggs? Let’s see what the leading scientific journal Nature can tell us.

The cicadas are here! Why US researchers are swarming to study them (Nature, 31 May 2024). Nature News writer Sumeet Kulkarni, says, “One of the big questions that researchers will seek to answer during this emergence is, how do cicadas keep track of time?”

When they are above ground, periodical cicadas have a loud and frenzied mating season, after which the females lay eggs in small slits in tree branches. Once the eggs hatch weeks later, the white nymphs fall to the ground like snowflakes, burrow down into the soil and stay there, sucking sap from tree roots for nutrition. They survive and grow like this for a long time — usually prime-numbered stretches of years. The cicadas somehow know to emerge in a particular year once the soil warms up to a balmy 18°C….

But how exactly the insects work out whether 13 or 17 years have passed underground is a mystery. Certainly, they can clock seasonal changes in the trees they feed on, but that can’t be the whole story, Simon says. She suspects that epigenetics — chemical modifications of DNA that control how various genes are expressed — wind the insects’ internal clocks. Specifically, she thinks methyl groups (carbon atoms with three hydrogens attached) are involved. Like Dana, Simon will be collecting samples this year to test her hypothesis.

This hypothesis simply displaces the mystery to another location. How do the epigenetic codes work out whether 13 or 17 years have passed? It’s even deeper a mystery: within the year, how do the insects know to arise all together? If the males emerged a month before the females, they’d have nobody to sing to, and the species would go extinct. After all these years of observing cicadas, evolutionists still have only hypotheses, not answers. (See my articles on cicadas at Evolution News here and here.)

So here is another mystery of evolution chalked up to futureware. Darwin sure knew how to keep his disciples employed in busy work (22 Dec 2003).

The existence of giant animals should be a profound mystery to evolutionary biologists. One would think animals would start small and get larger and more powerful over time. Like we reported earlier, it’s hard to build a giant. And it’s even harder to grow one from a single cell. Some giants still live today, but our world is impoverished from the many different kinds of animals that were bigger in the past. When evolutionists try to explain this, they hem, and haw, and say “more research is needed.” When will the public get wise to this perpetual scam?

Building a giant dinosaur, goose, pterosaur, cave bear, ichthyosaur, sauropod or any other kind of huge beast requires knowledge of the specifications required to live and move and thrive on a rotating planet. Any organism cannot be adapted just to summer, but must thrive in all seasons (see my article about phenology at Evolution News). Most of these giants had wide distribution. The Bible says God created Earth to be inhabited, and with his omniscience and power, he had the means to fill the Earth with creatures that not only thrive, but thrive together in an ecosystem. If Big Science were not so enslaved to Darwin worship, the creation view of life would be obvious. They are without excuse.

*Excerpt from the goose paper. Notice the use of imagination and suggestion that depends on prior acceptance of evolution and futureware. None of this makes any sense unless one already believes evolution occurred. It would not convince a Darwin skeptic. In fact, skeptics would accuse these scientists of affirming the consequent and begging several questions.

Other functional roles which may have significantly contributed to the variation includes sexual selection, and functions associated with vocalisation, preening, and thermoregulation, which can lead to trade-offs with feeding performance (e.g. Clayton et al. Citation2005; Bright et al. Citation2016; Olsen and Gremillet Citation2017, and references therein). As there is currently no rostrum attributed to any species of Ilbandornis, it is difficult to deduce the exact relationships between such factors and beak shape diversity among dromornithids. The discovery of further cranial material especially, will be vital in better elucidating the patterns of dromornithid evolution, and how interspecific differences in morphology relate to environmental changes across the Cenozoic of Australia.

Another excerpt:

There are few features of the skull which could be inferred as confident indicators of such affinities and the differing approaches to the evolution of large, deep mandibles between dromornithids and gastornithids, appear to be driven by functional adaptations to their respective ecological niches, constrained by their contrasting galloanseran ancestry. Instead, a more compelling hypothesis, and that which we advocate for, is that the dromornithids have basal anseriform affinities, and are likely sister to the Anhimidae, within the Anhimae. Even among their diverse modern relatives within Galloanserae, and indeed all of Aves, only the anhimids appear to be a close morphological counterpart in skull anatomy, despite some notable divergences. However, the complexity surrounding the hybrid concoction of galliform and anseriform traits in the skull of dromornithids, presents an impediment in determining phylogenetic affinities using morphology. Identifying ancestral or plesiomorphic conditions is challenging for both observational and phylogenetic studies, especially considering the great age of the Galloanserae lineage, with only a fragmentary Upper Cretaceous and early Palaeogene fossil record. The early divergence of dromornithids likely contributes to the combination of galliform and anseriform characters which has produced conflicting findings, and unresolved placements in previous phylogenetic studies. Consequently, the dromornithid form provides an unforeseen opportunity to consider character polarities deep within the Galloanserae clade and indicates that future analyses of morphology in early diverging Anseriformes, especially, must be considered within the greater context of the entire Galloanserae radiation. Although we find phylogenetic support for several hypothesised character polarities in our preliminary phylogenetic study, there remains a need for a more extensive analyses, to aid in better understanding and resolving the interrelationships of all early diverging fossil galloanseran lineages.


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