No Time for Bone-eating Worm to Evolve

Bone worms have specialized features that enable them to bore holes through whale bones. Ecologically, they serve to recycle whale bones back into the undersea environment. New research has discovered more about where they came from, and the results are not helpful to the evolutionary account.

Discovered in 2002, the bone worm was given the scientific name Osedax. This specialized scavenger somehow navigates across the nutrient-poor "desert" of the deep sea floor toward isolated whale carcasses (called "whale falls") and consumes them.

The Osedax worms have no stomach and no mouth. They depend on a symbiotic species of bacteria to produce enzymes that break down the whale bone so that the worm can absorb the nutrients. Each worm has a set of root-like extensions at one end. These house the bacteria and grow into the bone.

Curious about the origins of Osedax, researchers have been looking for its fossils. A study published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that the worms' characteristic holes have been found among some of the lowermost whale fossils.1 Greg Rouse, a co-discoverer of Osedax, verified CT scans showing that the holes were in fact bored by Osedax and not another creature.

The evolutionary age of these whale bones was assigned by correlating smaller, more common fossils found in surrounding rocks. Steffen Kiel of Germany's University of Kiel said in a university press release that "the age of our fossils coincides with the time when whales began to inhabit the open ocean."2

But such a "time when whales began" is in essence an assertion made by people who were not actually there to witness that beginning.3 And the discovery of Osedax bore holes in the lowest whale bone fossils goes against the concept of an ancient time for whale origins. It looks like all three came into existence at once: whales, their specialized bone scavengers, and--by implication--the worms' symbiotic bacteria.

The very fact that a creature as large as a whale became fossilized in the first place testifies to a uniquely terrible watery disaster in earth's past. A whale would simply swim away from any of today's local-level disturbances or tsunamis.

Further, the whale bones examined in the study had not yet been entirely recycled. They were largely intact yet riddled with bore holes. This shows that the bones were preserved before decomposition--a process that takes months, not millions of years--could be completed.

The energy associated with inundating a whale is on an order of magnitude consistent with a global flood. And the relative lack of decay during the whale's fossilization indicates a rapid, not lengthy, time for its burial and preservation.

The PNAS study concluded that Osedax was "at least 30 million years old." According to the University of Kiel press release:

Vertebrate paleontologists are probably less happy about the old age of Osedax: because it has been feeding on bones for most of the evolutionary history of whales, it is likely to have destroyed many potential whale fossils.2

But evolutionary paleontologists ought to also be less happy about this co-occurrence of Osedax with whales, since their presence from the very beginning of the whale's fossil record is consistent with biblical history. If God created them both on the same day or during the same week, it would stand to reason that there would be no time gap between the origin of whales and the origin of whale-bone-eating Osedax worms.


  1. Kiel, S. et al. Fossil traces of the bone-eating worm Osedax in early Oligocene whale bones. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print April 27, 2010.
  2. Bone-eating worms 30 Mio. years old. University of Kiel press release, April 20, 2010.
  3. Reed, J. 2009. Cuvier's analogy and its consequences: forensics vs testimony as historical evidence. Journal of Creation. 22 (3): 115-120.

Image credit: Steffen Kiel. Photo used under U.S. Fair Use doctrine. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on May 13, 2010.

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