Cambrian Fossil Intensifies Evolutionary Conundrum | The Institute for Creation Research

Cambrian Fossil Intensifies Evolutionary Conundrum

New fossil finds further verify one of evolution's biggest problems: the Cambrian explosion. According to evolutionary reckoning, a massive explosion of new life supposedly spawned dozens of brand-new fully formed body plans about 530 million years ago. How could so many novel body plans emerge in such a short time while today's emergence rate of new body plans is zero? Details from newly discovered Canadian fossil fish intensify this Cambrian conundrum.1

Very few fossils show up in rock layers below the Cambrian—some sponges, cnidarians, a mollusk, what look like worm trails, and several fossils now reclassified as non-animals, known as the Ediacaran fauna. Then, suddenly, most of the basic animal forms occur in Cambrian rocks, including echinoderms (e.g., starfish), various arthropods including shrimp and sea scorpions, clams, brachiopods, annelid worms, and chordates—a group of animals including vertebrates like fish.

This fossil pattern falls afoul of evolutionary expectations. Simpler animals in lower rocks, from supposedly earlier times, evolved into more complicated animals like chordates and those should appear in upper rock layers according to evolution. Instead, most fundamental animal forms classified as phyla, occur in lower Cambrian strata. In other words, instead of a slow and gradual appearance of new life forms, the fossils show just the opposite: the sudden appearance of fully-formed creatures.

Some have resisted interpreting fossils of jawless fish from Chinese Cambrian rocks as representing true chordates. But new finds from Canada validate them as vertebrates.

Over a decade ago, Chinese paleontologists described the earliest known fossil fish, including one named Myllokunmingia found in Chengjiang, China. Because the fish were recovered from lower Cambrian strata, they suggested that rates of evolution at that time must have been exceptionally fast.

Like modern fish, Myllokunmingia had W-shaped muscle bundles called myomeres, and a fully developed gut. Some acknowledge that evolution could never invent such specified complexity in such short time, so they initially doubted the Chinese discoveries, hypothesizing that the finds were simplistic evolutionary precursors of fully formed fish.

BBC News reported in 1999, "The discoveries, made by two separate teams, date from the Lower Cambrian era. This is 50 million years before the current estimate of when fish evolved, at about 530 million years ago."1

Aside from the rocks in Chengjian, Some reasoned that if chordates really existed during the Cambrian, they should also occur in Cambrian rocks outside China, for example the Burgess Shales of British Columbia. Well, they do now. New descriptions of fish in the Cambrian strata of North America prove it.

Researchers publishing in Nature noted that this Canadian fossil Cambrian fish named Metaspriggina walcotti looks very similar to the Chinese fossil Myllokunmingia fengjiaoa.2

The study authors wrote, "Although the myomeral configuration is also similar to Haikouichthys, in Metaspriggina the additional ventral chevron and clear dorsal bend define a W-shaped arrangement directly comparable to fish."2 Haikouichthys, another Chinese Cambrian fish, looked like a small hagfish.

So, fully formed fish occur in both Chinese and Canadian Cambrian layers. This means the evolutionary problem of the Cambrian explosion is real and intense.

Reams of new information in the form of biological coding, represented by dozens of novel cell types in Cambrian fossils, demand a reasonable cause. A Precambrian sponge would have had five cell types, but the Cambrian fish had 60 cell types, equivalent to an encyclopedia of brand-new biological information.3

Plus, over 67 percent of animal phyla have their lowest occurrence in the Cambrian.4 That's a lot of new animals suddenly appearing fully formed, and those same body plans have not changed.

If evolution is not adding new suites of biological information to any of today's creatures, then how could it have added so much, so fast, so long ago? Whereas the Canadian Cambrian fish Metaspriggina certainly punctuates this longstanding and unanswered challenge to evolution's defenders, it follows nicely from the biblical concept that Cambrian rocks represent the first of many Flood deposits, burying creatures that God had purposely fashioned.

References

  1. Oldest fossil fish caught. BBC News. Posted on news.bbc.co.uk November 4, 1999, accessed September 10, 2014.
  2. Morris, S. C. and J.B. Caron. 2014. A primitive fish from the Cambrian of North America. Nature. 512 (7515): 419-422.
  3. Meyer, S. C., M. R. Ross, and P. A. Nelson, P. Chien. 2003. The Cambrian Explosion: Biology's Big Bang. In Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, edited by S.C. Meyer and J.A. Campbell. Michigan State Press, 336. 
  4. Ibid, 352.

Image credit: Copyright © International Business Times. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.

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

Article posted on September 26, 2014.

The Latest
NEWS
Remembering Patti Morse
But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from...

CREATION PODCAST
What Happened with Washington's Violent Volcano? | The Creation...
How did a 1980 volcanic eruption change our understanding of geology? What impact did this event have on the age assignments of sediments? Join us for...

NEWS
Fossil Insect Predation Shows No Evidence of Evolution
Some recent science news stories have come out describing fossils of insects feeding on plants supposedly many “millions of years ago.” What...

NEWS
Adaptive Genetic and Epigenetic Changes in Plants
Being sedentary organisms, plants are essentially stuck where they are planted and need to dynamically adapt to the conditions around them to not only...

NEWS
Dr. Tim Clarey Awarded Adjunct Professor of the Year
Congratulations to ICR Research Scientist and geologist Dr. Tim Clarey! He received the Adjunct Professor of the Year award from King’s University,...

NEWS
Mars Rover Records Dramatic Solar Eclipse
NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has filmed the Martian satellite (or moon) Phobos eclipsing the sun, and this short but impressive video may be viewed...

CREATION PODCAST
Darwin or Design? CET Pt. 2 | The Creation Podcast: Episode 22
How does design provide a better explanation for biological functions and adaptations than natural selection? And how can engineering principles help...

NEWS
Resurrecting “Ancient” Enzymes?
The most abundant protein on Earth is probably an enzyme (biological catalyst) called RuBisCO (or Rubisco) designed by the Creator to function in photosynthesis.1...

NEWS
Inside May-June 2022 Acts & Facts
How can Christians stand up to scientific elitism? What does the plant fossil record in Iceland tell us about the global Flood? Does a new bacterium...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Grand Canyon
by Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation...