Lamprey Lunacy | The Institute for Creation Research

Lamprey Lunacy

Lampreys are a group of strange-looking jawless fish of the order Petromyzontiformes. Since evolutionists reject the biblical origins model, they must embrace these creatures as our ancient ancestors.1 But looking to the fossil record, evolutionists see lampreys going back unchanged for many millions of years. In other words, living fossils argue against the hypothetical evolutionary timeline.

Sometimes called “Lazarus taxa,” living fossils are organisms that were thought to be extinct, only to turn up alive in modern populations. Ranging from magnolia flowers to gar fish, and from single-cell algal filaments to lobsters, the living counterpart looks so much like its fossilized predecessors that identification down to the species level is often possible.2

Xu et al., writing in Zoological Research, stated,

The piecemeal discovery of fossils has proven that lampreys existed 360 million years ago, before the time of dinosaurs, and their shape has stayed almost unchanged over hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Lampreys are, therefore, universally termed as “living fossils” due to their strong resemblance to early fossil material, which reflects their important position in vertebrate evolution.3

Science writer Joanna Thompson of Live Science states, “These living fossils [lampreys] can give us a window into how some of our distant ancestors likely evolved.”4 However, living fossils in no way help evolution. Evolution means change, but living fossils show virtually no change.

The Live Science article also stated, “A new study of vertebrate evolution reveals that we have more in common with spooky-looking fish called lampreys than we thought.”4 Specifically, they “may have a ‘flight or fight’ response similar to people [emphasis added].”4

Thompson describes the discovery of sympathetic neurons:

But when the researchers started dissecting lamprey larvae, they noticed the immature fish had structures that looked a lot like neurons running in a chain down the length of their bodies. This string of nerve cells is characteristic of a sympathetic nervous system — a system lampreys weren’t supposed to have.4

“Weren’t supposed to have”? Really? Who said? Evidently, the theory of evolution.

In fact, Edens et al., in Nature, found in the lamprey a group of stem cells called the neural crest. This is the site of sympathetic neurons that contribute to the flight or fight reaction in vertebrates. They stated that even the earliest vertebrates may have had these ganglia, simply pushing back their origin.

Our findings challenge the prevailing dogma that posits that sympathetic ganglia are a gnathostome [vertebrates with jaws] innovation, instead suggesting that a late-developing rudimentary sympathetic nervous system may have been characteristic of the earliest vertebrates.5 (Emphasis added.)

Xu et al. rely on an unknown, hypothetical ancestor in their lamprey research article, saying, “Research on comparative anatomy and embryology reveal that all chordates [including humans] have three main features in common at a certain stage of their ontogeny or whole life, that is, the dorsal tube, notochord, and pharyngeal gill slits. This phenomenon indicates that all chordates originated from a common ancestor.”3

This indicates nothing of the sort, of course. Creationists predict the alleged common ancestor will always be unknown because it never existed. When God created the chordates, they were designed with a rod of flexible tissue (notochord) and a dorsal tubular nerve cord. But people never had pharyngeal gill slits because we never had fish ancestors. These critical structures should instead be called pharyngeal (throat) pouches and have a perfectly logical non-evolutionary explanation.6

Creationists maintain the living world does not have ancient ancestor(s) such as the lamprey. It was created by the Lord Jesus Christ, “Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever.”7


  1. Sherwin, F. 2021. Vertebrate Origins on the Ropes…Again. Acts & Facts. 50 (5): 14.
  2. Staff Writer. Living Fossils Display No Signs of Evolution’s Long Ages. Posted on, accessed June 8, 2024.
  3. Xu, Y. et al. 2016. Lamprey: a model for vertebrate evolutionary research. Zoological Research. 37 (5): 263–269.
  4. Thompson, J. Nightmare fish may explain how our ‘fight or flight’ response evolved. LiveScience. Posted on April 17, 2024, accessed June 8, 2024.
  5. Edens, B. et al. 2024. Neural crest origin of sympathetic neurons at the dawn of vertebrates. Nature. 629: 121.
  6. Thomas, B. Do People Have ‘Gill Slits’ in the Womb? Creation Science Update. Posted on July 20, 2012, accessed June 8, 2024. See also Bergman, J. 2019. Useless Organs: The Rise and Fall of the Once Major Argument for Evolution. Tulsa, OK: Bartlett Publishing.
  7. Psalm 146:6.

* Dr. Sherwin is a science news writer at the Institute for Creation Research. He earned an M.A. in invertebrate zoology from the University of Northern Colorado and received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Pensacola Christian College.

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