Did Burrowing Blindsnakes Raft Across the Oceans? | The Institute for Creation Research
Did Burrowing Blindsnakes Raft Across the Oceans?

The blindsnake, a small subsurface burrower, is not often seen, but when it is many mistake it for a worm.1 Researchers have constructed an evolutionary history for these creatures, partly from biological data and partly from evolutionary assumptions. But if events occurred as these scientists suggest, then blindsnakes must have made fantastic voyages across vast oceans to reach their current habitats.

In a study published online in the Royal Society's Biology Letters, researchers from Pennsylvania State University and other institutions burrowed into DNA sequence data from five genes found in 96 different species of blindsnakes in order to establish evolutionary relationships between the species.2 They used molecular clocks--which are far from objective and yield inherently biased results3--to decide when one group split from another.

The gene differences were all assumed to have been caused by mutation, and the gene data was fitted into an algorithm that presumed that all the blindsnakes shared a common ancestor. The study’s results presented a significant problem. When the dates assigned to the species' divergence are compared to the prevailing theories of continental drift, certain families of blindsnakes must have developed after the combined land mass of Madagascar and India (dubbed "Indigascar" by the researchers) broke away from East Gondwana, which had earlier split from Gondwana, an ancient supercontinent.

A Penn State press release stated the problem succinctly: If the earliest blindsnake lineages developed on Indigascar, as the Biology Letters study claims, "how did they get to all of those other places in the world that they occupy today--Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas?" They infrequently venture up to the earth's surface and are not known to swim at all. The press release stated that the researchers' results led them to conclude that blindsnakes distributed themselves across the globe on "flotsam":

The period of greatest diversification coincided with a time of low sea levels, when connections between continents were forming and the dispersal of such unlikely animals by floating on flotsam was easier.4

Thus, one blindsnake family supposedly repeatedly floated and burrowed all the way from Africa to Australia, and another somehow floated for about six months across the Atlantic Ocean to reach the Americas! Senior researcher Blair Hedges said, "Some scientists have argued that oceanic dispersal is an unlikely way for burrowing organisms to become distributed around the world….Our data now reinforce the message that such 'unlikely' events nonetheless happened in evolutionary history."4

But since such transcontinental events are not observed today, the floating flotsam theory flounders. Slow and gradual processes mainly remove silt from continents, and they would not explain this dispersal nearly as well as a worldwide catastrophe that forced floating forest mats across whole oceans in earth's recent past.5

Because of the incongruity between the speculative dates of continental breakup and the speculative dates of snake divergence, it is likely that the assigned evolutionary ages for these snakes--or for any other organism similarly dated, for that matter--are anything but trustworthy.

References

  1. Although they are called blindsnakes, most can detect light.
  2. Vidal, N. et al. Blindsnake evolutionary tree reveals long history on Gondwana. Biology Letters. Published online before print March 31, 2010.
  3. For example, see Thomas, B. Frozen Penguin DNA Casts Doubt on DNA-Based Dates. ICR News. Posted on icr.org November 25, 2009, accessed April 9, 2010.
  4. Ancient snakes living on Madagascar. Penn State University Press release, March 30, 2010.
  5. Morris, J. 1999. The Polystrate Trees and Coal Seams of Joggins Fossil Cliffs. Acts & Facts. 28 (10).

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

Article posted on April 22, 2010.

The Latest
CREATION PODCAST
Are Dinosaurs in the Bible? | The Creation Podcast: Episode 26
If the Bible is true, wouldn't it mention dinosaurs? If God made dinosaurs, when did He make them? Did they live with humans? What ultimately happened...

NEWS
Roe v. Wade Overturned
On Friday, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, overruled its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that purported to recognize a constitutional right to...

NEWS
Anthropologist Wows Scientists
Jeremy DeSilva of Dartmouth College gave an evening presentation at the end of this year’s week-long American Society of Mass Spectrometry conference....

NEWS
Plesiosaurs: Designed for Swimming in the Beginning
Plesiosaurs (“near lizards”) were an amazing group of aquatic reptiles. Their clear design includes unique flippers and streamlined bodies...

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
Natural Selection Part 3: A Seductive Swindle | Creation.Live...
Darwin’s idea of natural selection involves long ages of trial and error, making it a fundamentally death-driven concept. Could such a process...

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
Natural Selection Part 2: A Poor Personification | Creation.Live...
Charles Darwin compared natural selection to a human breeder, but the analogy has faced substantial criticism, even from within Darwinian camps. What...

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
Natural Selection Part 1: A Darwinian Deception | Creation.Live...
In his book On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin outlined the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. But what was Darwin’s purpose...

NEWS
Imaginary Dinosaur Science Runs Wild in Jurassic World: Dominion
Wild imagination abounds in the new Jurassic World: Dominion movie. Even a fully-feathered dinosaur is shown swimming below the ice at one point. But this...

ANNOUNCEMENTS
Bring Your Family to the ICR Discovery Center and Celebrate the...
The ICR Discovery Center Anniversary Celebration on September 3, 2022, will unveil new science exhibits, hands-on activities for the whole family, the...

CREATION PODCAST
Where Did Our Sun Come From? | The Creation Podcast: Episode...
What makes our sun so unique? Where does the sun get its power? Looking at the evidence, how old is our sun? On this episode of The Creation Podcast,...