Scan of Amber-Trapped Spider Shows Recent Origin
by Brian Thomas, M.S. *
A piece of oxygen-darkened amber was said to hold a particular arachnid, but it wasn't clearly visible. Scientists made a surprising discovery when a computed tomography scan was able to produce a finely detailed three-dimensional image of a hunting spider. But if the amber is actually 49 million years old, as is claimed, why hadn't it completely darkened long ago? And why do the spider's living relatives not show any signs of evolutionary change after all of this supposed time?
The amber was obviously much more translucent when first collected in the mid-1800s, but it had since oxidized and lost its transparency. Records indicated that it contained a certain kind of hunting spider, "but this seemed strange as huntsman spiders are strong, quick animals that would be unlikely to be trapped in tree resin."1 Scientists needed a way to closely examine the inclusion, and computed tomography (CT) provided the answer.
CT scanning involves acquiring a series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken from different angles and focused at multiple depths. These are then digitally compiled to build a three-dimensional image. The CT images of the spider were posted in a video, accessible on the University of Manchester's website.1
Such scans had been performed before, but mostly on creatures that were still visible in more transparent amber. The study results, showing that scientists can now acquire finely detailed three-dimensional images of creatures trapped in opaque amber, were published in the journal Naturwissenschaften.2
The specimen was collected from the famous Baltic amber deposits and first described in 1854. Since then, oxygen has reacted with the biopolymer that comprises the amber, causing it to darken. This raises a serious doubt about this fossil's age assignment. If this much discoloration can occur in less than 160 years, then what stopped it from having occurred during the previous 49 million years?
All rocks are porous, some more than others. And there are no known rock types that are able to totally block oxygen from passing through them. So even if the most oxygen-gas-flow-resistant earth material completely encased the Baltic amber for eons, the amber still should have turned black millions of years ago because of all the oxygen that would have leaked in during that time. This amber, like so many others, looks as though it is at most thousands, not millions, of years old.3
Also, one would expect evolution to have at least transformed the huntsman spider into a different species of spider, if not a completely different creature, after 49 million years. After all, mutations occur relentlessly, and according to Darwin, "nature" constantly selects the fittest of the mutants. But the high-resolution details of the outer surface of this specimen were sufficient to easily identify it as virtually identical to the modern species Eusparassus crassipes.2
Perhaps evolution, for reasons unknown and unfathomable, did not occur over these supposed millions of years. Or, the amber may have been deposited much more recently, disallowing enough time for evolution to have produced any observable body changes to this species of huntsman spider. Or, just maybe, neither millions of years nor evolution have occurred at all.
The famous Baltic amber deposit is very large. Since amber forms from the resin of damaged trees, a large deposit implies massive damage to whole forests that was catastrophic enough to trap even "strong, quick animals." This kind of broad-scale destruction is consistent with the global Flood or its residual catastrophes.4 And according to Scripture and other eyewitness accounts, the Flood occurred thousands, not millions, of years ago5—as this amber-ensnared spider attests.
- Imaging technology reveals intricate details of 49 million-year-old spider. University of Manchester press release, May 18, 2011.
- Dunlop, J. A. et al. 2011. Computed tomography recovers data from historical amber: an example from huntsman spiders. Naturwissenschaften. 98 (6): 519-527.
- Thomas, B. 2010. Amber Jewelry: A Conversation Piece for Creation Evidence. Acts & Facts. 39 (9): 17.
- Thomas, B. How Did Marine Organisms End Up in Tree Sap? ICR News. Posted on icr.org November 20, 2008, accessed May 19, 2011.
- Truax, E. A. 1991. Genesis According to the Miao People. Acts & Facts. 20 (4).
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on May 27, 2011.