Do Land Plants Have Algal Relatives? | The Institute for Creation Research

Do Land Plants Have Algal Relatives?
Evolutionists recently reported observations about a plant group called the Zygnematophyceae (a class of green algae). They claimed to know more about its alleged evolutionary history. This class of algae has been suggested as the closest evolutionary ancestor of land plants via “algal multicellularity.” Gabriele Meseg-Rutzen of the University of Cologne told PhysOrg,

An international team of scientists led jointly by the Universities of Göttingen and Cologne has deciphered the evolutionary history of zygnematophytes. Their results reveal the internal relationships in this group of algae using state-of-the-art phylogenomic analyses and pinpoint the emergences of algal multicellularity.1

Perhaps the most revealing quote of the article shows the tenuous nature of this algal/land plant connection.

The fact that the Zygnematophyceae diverged from their last common ancestor with plants about 550 million years ago and since then charted their own evolutionary path might be the reason for this marked morphological split.1 (emphasis added)

The researchers introduced a formulated five-order system of the zygnematophytes, but it only enabled them to reconstruct the most likely pattern of body plan evolution.

Creationists and evolutionists agree that there is indeed a marked morphological separation (or difference) between land plants and the Zygnematophyceae. Evolutionists must appeal to an unknown common ancestor of the two, with the divergence occurring over half a billion years ago (the unobserved past), but nonetheless maintaining that it’s a scientific fact. Creationists state algae has always been algae2 and land plants have always been land plants.3

Indeed, the differences between land plants and algae are legion. The two groups were created to inhabit different ecological niches at creation thousands of years ago. Land plants, or embryophytes, consist of cells and tissues.

The tissues are organized into three tissue systems: the dermal tissue system (the covering of the plant body), the vascular tissue system (the complex conducting of water and food) and the ground tissue system (photosynthesis and support). Although no set definition of algae is accepted, algae lacks many of the distinct tissue and cell types such as stomata, phloem, and xylem found in land plants. Regardless, evolutionists must posit how algae evolved into the embryophytes. This means that single-celled algae must have evolved into a multicellular organism many millions of years ago.

In 2019, an incredible—and incorrect—announcement was made after observing a single-celled algae "evolve" into a multicellular organism.4 But,

Not only did the researchers make the extravagant claim that they had observed the evolution of multicellularity, but they also claimed that the “selection pressure” of a predator’s presence caused the alleged evolutionary process. But a newly evolved multicellular creature was never observed—just globs of algae documented previously as in other studies.5

At the end of the article Professor Dr. Jan de Vries of the University of Göttingen states,

"Such insights and the new phylogenomic framework are fundamental for adequately performing future comparative analyses and for inferring the development of cellular traits and body plans from algae to plants" (emphasis added)

Inference only, not scientific fact.

Finally, it should be noted that other evolutionists disagree with this algae-embryophyte connection and suggest that land plants instead evolved from streptophytes (e.g. the charophyte algae) because the streptophytes live in fresh water,6 while two other evolutionists consider the embryophytes to have evolved from stoneworts (charophyte algae).7

Creationists maintain embryophytes and algae were both created on day 3 of the creation week about six thousand years ago.

1. Meseg-Rutzen, G. Resolving the evolutionary history of the closest algal relatives of land plants. PhysOrg. Posted on September 2, 2022, accessed September 17, 2022.
2. Daley, J. At 1.6 Billion Years Old, These Fossils Could Be the Oldest Complex Life. Smithsonian Magazine. Posted on March 17, 2017, accessed September 17, 2022.
3. Sherwin, F. Early Land Plant Evolution? Creation Science Update. Posted on November 30, 2021, accessed September 16, 2022.
4. Macdonald, F. 2019. Scientists Have Witnessed a Single-Celled Algae Evolve into a Multicellular Organism. Posted on on February 23, 2019, accessed March 1, 2019.
5. Tomkins, J. Algae Multicellular Evolution Study Debunked. Creation Science Update. Posted on March 21, 2019, accessed September 17, 2022.
6. Becker, B. and B. Marin. 2009. Streptophyte algae and the origin of embryophytes. Annals of Botany. 103: 999–1004.
7. Strother, P. and C. Foster. 2021. A fossil record of land plant origins from charophyte algae. Science. 373: 792-96.

*Dr. Sherwin is Research Scientist 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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