Reading many textbooks, mainstream articles, we are presented reports of absurdly long ages, “ancient”, “primitive” animals and plants depicted as the predecessors of the present, “modern” ones… Dinosaurs, trilobites and numberless others extinct species are alleged to have lived in Earth dozens of millions years ago. But, how can they be so sure of these “facts”? What if the dating methods aren’t accurate, and all they do is making use of untested speculations? It’s defended that, giving millions of years, complex, functional and fit features can spontaneously appear in organisms…
It’s also said the human evolved from ancient primates a “mere” million years ago, that means: in so few (evolutionary) time we evolved our wonderful anatomy (i.e., been able to walk upright, skilled hands with thumbs to handle stuffs, etc), speaking ability, amazing brain, consciousness, complex languages, etc! This is quite improbable and contradictory, even more after noticing the following species, called “living-fossils”.
“A living fossil is a living species (or clade) of organism which appears to be the same as a species otherwise only known from fossils and which has no close living relatives. These species have all survived major extinction events, and generally retain low taxonomic diversities.” Wikipedia
Beginning with a classic, the coelacanth:
Coelacanths are a part of the clade Sarcopterygii, or the lobe-finned fishes. Externally, there are several characteristics that distinguish the coelacanth from other lobe-finned fish. They possess a three-lobed caudal fin, also called a trilobate fin or a diphycercal tail.
Claimed to be extinct since the Cretaceous period (145 ± 4 to 66 million years (Ma) ago), found only in fossils… Well, until 1938! In that year fishermen off the coast of Madagascar hauled a live coelacanth to the surface in their nets!
Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, who alerted the scientific community to the find, with the 1938 specimen.
Any difference to its grandpa?
Explanations for this lack of “evolution”?
“The reason for this lower substitution rate is still unknown, although a static habitat and a lack of predation over evolutionary timescales could be contributing factors to a lower need for adaptation.” (Nature)
If you have predators chasing you, surely you’ll evolve new features quickly, right?
To make things weirder, Wikipedia states:
“They follow the oldest known living lineage of Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish and tetrapods), which means they are more closely related to lungfish, reptiles and mammals than to the common ray-finned fishes.”
A BBC article reiterates this sarcopterygii-mammal kinship:
“This class of fish was ancestral to all of the four-legged vertebrates: amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.” (BBC Nature)
If 400 million years (ncbi) hasn’t caused a change at all in the coelacanth, how much time would thus be needed to turn it into a human?
Since 1938 others coelacanths have been caught, not just off the African and Madagascan coastlines, but also in Indonesian waters. It’s weird to see no sign of mutation, evolution after so many time! Maybe a fish is a lot complex, thus, demanding even more time to turn into something else! What about something smaller, huh, a mite to begin with; surely, such a small and “simple” creature could have changed a lot after millions of years:
This Gracilidris specimen caught on amber is alleged to have lived in the upper Oligocene or lower Miocene (15-20 million years ago), and surely, being a small creature with few chromosomes, it has modified a lot after that time, right? Not!
What about a 100-million years old spider?
No new (nor outdated, ancient, “vestigial”) feature over again..
The examples of living fossils with zero sign of evolution are endless:
Nautilus (500 million years old):
Tuatara (spine-bearer, in Maori idiom) (around 200 million years ago):
“Tuataras are reptiles, yet retain more primitive characteristics than lizards and snakes.” says a Wikipedia article, however, only because of its resembling ancient look, such as a spiny crest along the back, its dentition, in which two rows of teeth in the upper jaw overlap one row on the lower jaw, unique among living species, and some features in its skeleton, which is said to be “apparently evolutionarily retained from fish” . Nonetheless, how can the tuatara be primitive and at the same time having such a magnificent, complex characteristics:
“The eyes can focus independently, and are specialized with a duplex retina that contains two types of visual cells for both day and night vision, and a tapetum lucidum which reflects onto the retina to enhance vision in the dark. There is also a third eyelid on each eye, the nictitating membrane.”
A characteristic which tuataras share with lizards is an eye on the top of their heads. This third or pineal eye however is better developed in the tuataras than in other living creatures. It is visible in young animals as a translucent scale, but as they age it becomes covered with normal skin. Underneath lie a lens, a retina and a nerve which passes through a hole in the top of the skull to the brain. As the structure lacks an iris it may simply be sensitive to light, for these animals are for the most part nocturnal, or active at night. SOme say it may be useful in absorbing ultraviolet rays to manufacture vitamin D, as well as to determine light/dark cycles, and help with thermoregulation.
It’s interesting that they are endangered with risk of extinction, both European and New Zealand varieties. It was the tuataras’ difficulties in competing with mammals like rats, for example, that ended in the elimination of the tuatara from the larger New Zealand islands. So, it boggles our mind with the question: how could such “unfit” animal survive that long, whereas creatures like dinosaurs, megalodon, predator X and other much more able creatures come into extinction?
“That is one of the big mysteries about biodiversity….Why these evolutionary losers are still around is a very hard thing to explain. They have been drawing inside straights for hundreds of millions of years. It’s a real mystery to biologists how there can be any tuataras, given their low rate of speciation.”
[Alfaro, M. E. et al. Nine exceptional radiations plus high turnover explain species diversity in jawed vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print July 24, 2009.]
Ginkgo Biloba (170 million-year old)
Any difference here?
Echidna (supposedly split from Platypuses 115 million years ago)
Weird animal which belongs to the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals, along with platypus! The fact that it lays eggs has been used by scholars as evidence of mammal’s evolutionary past, allegedly evolved out of reptiles. But there’s no fossil evidence showing any gradual modification, no reptile-like ancestor, nothing! Another strange characteristic of echidna is the presence of a non-venomous spur on the hind feet of males. Also, there’s no sign that they are in transition phase, “evolving” into a new form, species, they were just born this way.
Hoatzin (24-48 mya):
This bird lives in South America forests. It’s considered a living fossil merely because it has an uncommon feature: The newly hatched bird has claws on its thumb and first finger and so is enabled to climb on the branches of trees with great dexterity! When it reaches the adulthood, however, the claws are gone.
Young Hoatzin climbing the tree with its claws
Crocodiles (83.5 mya):
Well, 83.5 millions years old, but no single feather has appeared…
Horseshoe crab (450 mya):
450 million years later… It absolutely remained the same fashion. It’s worth note that the horseshoe crab has a wonderful immunologic system which responds to any bacterial infection much faster than that of vertebrates! No wonder Dr. Norman Wainwright (immunologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, USA), said, ‘One of the reasons the horseshoe crab has survived for so long is its advanced immune system’ (ABCNews)
Researchers at MBL are using one species, called Limulus polyphemus, to develop a test for bacteria. Bacterial cell walls contain distinctive LPS molecules (lipopolysaccharides, molecules containing sugar units and a fat). These trigger a cascade of enzyme reactions in horseshoe crab blood that attack the bacterial proteins and culminate in the production of a protein called fibrin. This clots the crab’s blood and, in the wild, would effectively seal a wound. (CMI)
So it turns out that this “primitive” creature has a much more efficient system than the “advanced” vertebrates?
There are much more examples of these living fossils, none of them showing any slight sign of evolution; we have insects, invertebrates with advanced eyes, such as the trilobites, dragonflies, etc, dated to million of years. Meanwhile, in a few million years, however, this astounding evolution occurred:
Well, this reminds me of a famous quote:
“Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” (Theodosius Dobzhansky)