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Living Fossils

In keeping with Genesis chapter 1, we understand that all the kinds of organisms were created during the creation week. The first major record of what many of those creatures were like, comes from the fossil record which resulted in the engulfing of some contemporary communities of the time by lots of water-borne sediments (Noah’s flood). Many of the types of creature thus preserved in the rocks are extinct today. Other groups include some extinct members along with some living representatives that survive to this day. There are a few famous examples, therefore, of creatures which were preserved as fossils but which also include extant specimens. By evolutionary estimates of the rock record, many of these living fossils were buried many millions of years ago. Alternatively, these creatures were not entombed millions of years ago but only thousands of years ago. Even with assumptions of long ages, the issue of living fossils is a problem for evolutionists.

The existence of an organism whose fossil representatives appear similar to today’s living members, indicates that this creature has not changed since the time of burial. Thus, the classic definition of a living fossil is an extant organism that closely resembles fossil specimens considered by evolutionists to be many millions of years old. Such a unique extant organism is typically a representative of a much larger fossil group. A skeptical inquirer might ask why all extant organisms are not living fossils. It appears that the early diversity on earth was much greater than today. All the kinds of organism that we see today were definitely present pre-flood but not necessarily with the exact appearances. Some variations are probably of more recent times.

Among the famous living fossils, apparently unchanged since earlier representatives were fossilized, are the coelacanth, horseshoe crab and Neopilina. This latter shelly dome shaped creature, something like a chiton, was discovered off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in 1952. Scientists created a new class for it, the Monoplacophora. This genus does not have a fossil record, but it closely resembles the genus Pilina which does have a fossil record. Those fossils are found in Silurian rocks, very low down in the geological column. Neither genus is known from any other deposits. One commentator declared: “The significance of a Recent organism closely resembling Silurian fossils is best appreciated when it is realized that according to the commonly accepted geological time scale, 400 million years stretch between the Silurian and Recent. In the context of the evolution paradigm (model), this means that Neopilina underwent only insignificant changes in 400 million years.” [Conrad D. Clausen. 1976. Neopilina: A Living Fossil. Origins 3 #1pp. 56-59. See p. 57].

Among plants, living fossils include Araucaria araucaria (monkey puzzle tree), Metasequoia (dawn redwood), Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi pine of which extant plants were discovered only in 1994 in Australia), Ginkgo, club mosses, horsetails and tree ferns.

Horseshoe crabs are a spectacular example of a living fossil. Four species occupy the Arthropod class Merostomata. Other classes in this phylum include class Insecta with about one million species, class Crustacea with 42,000 species and the spiders and relatives, Arachnida with about 100,000 species. In anybody’s book, horseshoe crabs are isolated taxonomically from other organisms within the huge phylum Arthropoda [animals with chitinous exoskeleton and jointed appendages]. From an evolutionary point of view, you might suppose that the horseshoe crabs were dedicated to preserving the status quo, otherwise why do they still appear the same? The oldest horseshoe crab fossils date from ~450 million years ago (mya). [Wenyan Nong et al.2021. Communications Biology 4: 83 pp. 1-11. See p. 2] And the oldest species is Limulus darwini, whose fossils are dated at 148 mya with no findings in between then and now. [Adrian Kin and Blazej Blazejowski. 2014. PLoS ONE 9:10 pp. 1-15. See p. 8]

The unchanged appearance of the crabs would suggest that they generate variation at an extremely slow rate in order to preserve their long-term appearance. A recent study has however revealed that these crabs exhibit very high levels of variation in Hox genes which control embryonic development. If any organisms were going to display rapid evolution, it might be those with lots of variation in Hox genes. [Nong p. 4]. So, the evolutionary expectations for low diversity to preserve the status quo, are not fulfilled. With high diversity the crabs could only have been around a short time without some changes to their basic appearance.

This leaves us with the indications we expected to find. These creatures are not survivors from millions of years, but much shorter intervals, perhaps merely from thousands of years ago. Their significance is that they demonstrate how unreasonable the evolutionary expectations are. If evolution were true, this would mean that the Limulus darwini crabs for example lived by the millions without leaving a trace in the fossil record through the time of the dinosaurs, through the Cretaceous extinction and up to the present. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that this does not make sense. The time when living fossils were entombed was recent, just as the time of the catastrophic world-wide flood was recent. The idea that any creature could remain unchanged over hundreds of millions of years does not really suit evolutionary ideas and certainly not creationary ideas! It is time to dispose of the idea of hundreds of millions or billions of years of earth history!

Related Resources

Living Fossils: The Horseshoe Crab Story