Elpistostegalia is an extinct lobe-finned fish (as is the extant coelacanth) and is thought by evolutionists to be one of the creatures closest to the origin of limbed forms (tetrapods). Nature magazine reported the discovery of “the most complete elpistostegalian yet found.”2 The fossil of the genus Elpistostege—allegedly dated to be 380 million years old—was discovered in Miguasha, Canada.
Evolutionists see the fossilized bones of this creature as being homologous (being similar in position and evolutionary origin).
Using high energy CT-scans, the skeleton of the pectoral fin revealed the presence of a humerus (arm), radius and ulna (forearm), rows of carpus (wrist) and phalanges organized in digits (fingers).1
Evolutionist John Long of Flinders University in Australia said,
This is the first time that we have unequivocally discovered fingers locked in a fin with fin-rays in any known fish. The articulating digits in the fin are like the finger bones found in the hands of most animals.1
How would non-Darwinists respond to Elpistostege that is supposedly a transitional form? There are a number of points to consider that effectively removes this fossil from the imaginary parade of fish-to-tetrapod.
To begin with, one evolutionary source was cautious. It reported study lead researcher Richard Cloutier saying, “Elpistostege watsoni, suggests that human hands likely evolved, eventually, from the fins of this fish."3
Are the bones of the pectoral fin homologous, like Richard Cloutier stated in the Nature article? Two evolutionists stated homology is “a controversial term,”4 while another says homology “is assumed to be due to descent from a common ancestor.”5 Such caution is to be expected, creationists maintain, because homology is based on the highly questionable theory of macroevolution (vertical evolution). In fact, Richard Cloutier said, "Elpistostege is not necessarily our ancestor….”1 Further, how does Elpistostege’s “fish hand” compare with the pectoral fin of the fossil of the incomplete specimens of Tiktaalik6 discovered in northern Canada in 2004?
Elpistostege was dated to be 380 million years old. Tiktaalik is dated at 375 million years old. But paleontological findings in Poland revealed vertebrate trackways 397 million years old—18 million years older than Tiktaalik. Nature magazine said regarding these troubling Polish trackways,
They force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental setting of the fish-tetrapod transition, as well as the completeness of the body fossil record.7
This means Elpistostege is much younger than the Polish tetrapods. Creation scientists ask: What makes evolutionists think Elpistostege is in the line of fish-to-tetrapod transition?
A better explanation is that features of these “transitional forms” such as Elpistostege (and Tiktaalik) would have worked well in the marshy interface between open water and land, making them well suited to an ecological, not evolutionary, transition in the pre-Flood world.
Stage image: 3D animation of Elpistostege fish fossil.
Stage image credit: Professor John Long, Flinders University. Copyright © 2020. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.
1. Ancient fish fossil reveals evolutionary origin of the human hand. Phys.org. Posted on phys.org March 18, 2020, accessed June 17, 2020.
2. Cloutier, R. et al. 2020. Elpistostege and the origin of the vertebrate hand. Nature. 579: 549-554.
3. Geggel, L. Fish sprouted fingers before they ventured onto land, fossil shows. LiveScience. Posted on livescience.com March 18, 2020, accessed June 17, 2020.
4. Thain, M. and M. Hickman. 2004. Dictionary of Biology. London: Penguin Group, 353.
5. Allaby, M. 2020. Dictionary of Zoology, 5th edition. Oxford University Press, 292.
6. Sherwin, F. 2006. Tiktaalik: Our Ancestor? Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org April 11, 2006, accessed June 17, 2020.
7. Niedźwiedzki, G, et al. 2010. Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland. Nature. 463: 43-48. See also: Sherwin, F. 2010. Banner Fossil for Evolution Is Demoted. Acts & Facts. Jan. 27
*Dr. Frank Sherwin is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his master’s degree in invertebrate zoology from the University of Northern Colorado and an honorary doctor of science from Pensacola Christian College.