Living Fossils

Spot The Difference

First published in: Creation Ex Nihilo 19(3):52, June-August 1997

living bivalve fossil bivalve

living Anadara bivalve

fossil Anadara bivalve

EACH of the two pictures above shows two different species of the bivalve Anadara.

Can you spot the difference between the living and fossil species? According to evolutionists and other long-agers, the difference is about three million years — but they are identical!

The right picture is of two species of fossil Anadara from rock labeled as Pliocene, in Italy. The one with slightly gaping valves is A. corbulides, the other A. natalensis. In the top picture are two absolutely identical living specimens, arranged in the same way. Imagine — one is asked to believe that there have been three million years in which there has been absolutely no change, no 'evolution' visible at all. Note that:

  1. Shellfish such as this have a much shorter generation time than humans. The number of generations which would have been born, passed their DNA information to the next generation, and then died, would have been enormous.
  2. Each time there is a generation, and the DNA is copied, there is a chance of mutations (copying errors, which evolutionists claim is the stuff of evolution) creeping in. Creationists also believe that mutations can cause change — but they degrade information, causing it to be lost or corrupted.
  3. While these millions of bivalve generations are passing, with mutations happening all the time, there are all sorts of pressures from the environment — changing conditions, predators, competition for survival, and so on. According to evolutionists, natural selection from such causes will act upon the mutations, to bring about evolutionary changes. In fact, it boggles the mind to imagine, if there really were millions of years, how species could avoid changing a little, even if only to degenerate.

The reality is that examples like this are commonplace. Many are on display in the creationist museum LEBENDIGE VORWELT, in Hagen-Hohenlimburg, Germany, run by Dr Joachim Scheven. The museum's collection of so-called 'living fossils' runs into the hundreds. Fossil experts have now begun to talk routinely of 'stasis' as a commonplace in the fossil record — this simply means 'staying the same', which sounds like the opposite of evolution.

What would we predict the fossils to show on the basis of a recent six-day creation and a worldwide Flood?

Some creatures, such as the Tautara and Coelacanth were once thought to have been extinct for tens of millions of years, only to be later found alive and unchanged in modern times.

The Tuatara

Tuatara is known scientifically as a 'living fossil', a distinction shared with a few other species including the coelacanth fish, the horseshoe crab, and the native frogs of New Zealand, which have not changed since ancient origins. Evolution seems to have mysteriously passed them by.

The tuatara are found on about 30 islands around New Zealand, having become extinct from the mainland last century. It is supposed to be the most ancient of all living reptiles, supposedly more ancient than the dinosaurs, surviving for almost 200 million years.

The difference between lizards and tuataras are in their skeletal structure. They have an extra bone on the side of the skull that anchors the bone to which the lower jaw is hinged. On its eye there are three eyelids. Its scales are unlike those of other reptiles because they do not have free edges or overlap. Otherwise they look somewhat like an iguana. Young tuatara have a third eye, known as the parietal or pineal eye, located at the top centre of the skull between the other eyes. It is connected to the brain by a nerve, but it becomes covered with opaque scales when the tuatara is an adult, so an image would be impossible. Some scientists believe that this third eye may function as a light sensor, influencing the amount of time a tuatara spends basking, but no one really knows for sure.

A baby Tuatara pops out of its egg at Victoria University Male tuataras have no copulatory organ, so they must mate like birds, through the direct contact of the cloacas. The process of egg formation takes the female four years, sometimes more. The eggs are only an inch in length and don't hatch for sometimes over a year. The clutch usually contains fourteen or fewer eggs. For a nest the tuatara usually uses abandoned petral burrows. Sometimes the bird and reptile share the same burrow. If necessary, however, the tuatara can dig it's own burrow.


A Tuatara meets a Weta The tuatara is largely a nocturnal animal but spends part of each day basking at the entrance of the burrow which it commandeers from, and sometimes shares with, Shearwaters and Petrels, which are also sometimes its food, although its predominant diet is insects, earthworms, slugs, snails, and occasionally a small vertebrate. They stalk their prey and catch it with a sudden lunge.

The average Tuatara weighs about 400-500 grams.


The Coelacanths

According to evolutionists the Coelacanths are an ancient lineage of fish-like vertebrates that first appeared some 350 million years ago, about the time the first creatures emerged from sea to land. The fossil on view at the Museum, from the Santana Formation, in Brazil, is supposedly more than 100 million years old.


Until 1938 all coelacanths were considered to be extinct, (assumed to have died out with the dinosaurs in the mass extinction's at the end of the Cretaceous age); and the last coelacanth believed to have lived approximately 70 million years ago. In December of 1938, however, fishermen off the eastern coast of South Africa caught a living coelacanth, like the one pictured above. It was so similar to its ancient relatives that it was called a "living fossil." It was the marine equivalent of stumbling across a living dinosaur. For years after this serendipitous discovery, scientists searched for another living coelacanth. Finally, off the Comoro Islands, north of Madagascar, they met with success. Since then, more than 200 specimens have been found, all in the same region.

A live Coelacanth, from the Comoro Islands. Picture from the TOBA AQUARIUM

In 1975 a scientist in the Museum's Department of Ichthyology helped dissect a coelacanth. Inside were five fully formed babies, showing us that coelacanth eggs hatch internally. Because of this method of reproduction, the coelacanth cannot produce many eggs, and is able to brood only a few young. It is therefore extremely rare and vulnerable to overfishing. Conservation measures are now in place because it is feared that the coelacanth, once thought to be long extinct, might die out for real, the unintended victim of fishermen.

Some interesting news items:

Another animal has joined the ranks of those previously thought to be extinct.

Actually, Bulmer's fruit bat was removed from the extinct list twice, once in 1970 and a second time in 1992. Bulmer's fruit bat was originally known only through fossil remains and was believed to have become extinct 10,000 years ago, at the end of the ice age. In 1970, its remains were found at the site of a bat colony exterminated by local native hunters with newly acquired shotguns. In 1992, a surviving population was discovered in a cave whose sides were so sheer and so deep, that humans found it impossible to enter.

Bulmer's fruit bat is a bit of an oddity in the bat world as well. Its wings meet in the middle of its back, giving it extreme maneuverability, and it is one of the few species of bat that can fly backwards and hover. Unlike most insectivorous bats, Bulmer's fruit bat does not have a well-developed echo location system, so it relies on sight. When it roosts, it makes a sound like some species of New Guinea parakeets.

(Bats, Spring 1994. Credit: Walt Gavenda.)


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