The missing fossils argument (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Thursday, January 20, 2022, 15:10 (497 days ago)

Trying to explain gaps in the fossil record by hoping missing fossils will be found is a losing cause with new studies of th e Edicaran and Cambrian gap:

"The new phyla that appeared in the Cambrian explosion (a largely marine event) included the first animals to possess skeletons, digestive tracts, circulatory systems, and complex internal and external organs. Not until the Cambrian explosion was there sufficient oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere and oceans for such animals to exist.

"Animals that suddenly appeared at the beginning of the Cambrian period included the most advanced phyla in Earth’s history. We humans belong to the chordate phylum, which is characterized by animals that possess a dorsal hollow nerve cord and a notochord. All vertebrates and many invertebrates belong to the chordate phylum. Paleontologists have discovered fossils of chordates, including some vertebrates, that date back to the very beginning of the Cambrian period.


"Two of the best attempts to determine an absolute date for the Cambrian explosion were undertaken by research teams led by Diazhao Chen and Can Chen, respectively. Diazhao Chen and four colleagues obtained uranium-lead zircon ages from the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary strata, where one stratum contains fossils of Ediacaran (the period prior to the Cambrian) animals and the immediately adjacent stratum contains fossils of Cambrian animals in the Liuchapo Formation in South China.

"The fossil record reveals that the Ediacaran animals were the first to appear on Earth. Unlike the Cambrian animals, the Ediacaran fauna lacked digestive tracts, circulatory systems, skeletons, and complex organs. The record shows that the Ediacaran fauna experienced a sudden worldwide mass extinction event that was quickly followed by the appearance of the Cambrian explosion animals.


"They found a composite geological section in southern Namibia of the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary that provided biostratigraphic and chemostratigraphic data that was bracketed by radiometric dating. Their measurements constrained the date for the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary to no earlier than 538.99 ± 0.21 million years ago and no later than 538.58 ± 0.19 million years ago. Therefore, they concluded that the faunal transition from Ediacaran to Cambrian biota occurred within less than 410,000 years.


"A time window for the Cambrian explosion briefer than 410,000 years is far too brief for any conceivable naturalistic model for the history of life. It would be far too brief even for the appearance of just one new phylum, let alone 30+ phyla. These discoveries make paleontologist Kevin Peterson’s conclusion in his review paper on the Cambrian explosion—published a dozen years ago—all the more compelling: “Elucidating the materialistic basis for the Cambrian explosion has become more elusive, not less, the more we know about the event itself.”8 The same goes for Gregory Wray’s review published in 1992, “The Cambrian ‘explosion’ of body plans is perhaps the single most striking feature of the metazoan fossil record. The rapidity with which phyla and classes appeared during the early Paleozoic coupled with much lower rates of appearance of higher taxa since, poses an outstanding problem for macroevolution.” (my bold)

Comment: I've quoted Bechly in the past: " "The most popular attempt to resolve this discrepancy is the so-called “artifact hypothesis,” which proposes that the Cambrian animal phyla had ancestors, but that those ancestors either left no fossil record or have not yet been found, because of the incompleteness of the fossil record." Now more Bechly: "Recently, I stumbled upon a paper from 2018 that I had previously overlooked, and it proved to be dynamite. It is a study by a research group from the University of Zurich about the transition from the Ediacaran organisms to the Cambrian animal phyla in the Nama Basin of Namibia (Linnemann et al. 2018). What they found is truly mind-blowing. The window of time between the latest appearance date (LAD) of the alien Ediacaran biota and the first appearance date (FAD) of the complex Cambrian biota was only 410,000 years. You read that correctly, just 410 thousand years! This is not an educated guess but based on very precise radiometric U-Pb dating with an error margin of only plus-minus 200 thousand years. This precision is truly a remarkable achievement of modern science considering that we are talking about events 538 million years ago.

So I might add, without fossils, imagining lost fossils disappears. I've left out two supporting study descriptions. The findings are solid.

The missing fossils argument

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 17, 2022, 21:02 (380 days ago) @ David Turell

New findings in the pre-Cambrian gap period:

"Early animals formed complex ecological communities more than 550 million years ago, setting the evolutionary stage for the Cambrian explosion, according to a study by Rebecca Eden, Emily Mitchell, and colleagues at the University of Cambridge, UK, publishing May 17th in the open-access journal PLOS Biology.

"The first animals evolved towards the end of the Ediacaran period, around 580 million years ago. However, the fossil record shows that after an initial boom, diversity declined in the run-up to the dramatic burgeoning of biodiversity in the so-called "Cambrian explosion" nearly 40 million years later. Scientists have suggested this drop in diversity is evidence of a mass extinction event roughly 550 million years ago—possibly caused by an environmental catastrophe—but previous research has not investigated the structure of these ancient ecological communities.

"To evaluate the evidence for an Ediacaran mass extinction, researchers analyzed the metacommunity structure of three fossil assemblages that span the last 32 million years of this geological period (between 575 to 543 million years ago). They used published paleoenvironmental data, such as ocean depth and rock characteristics, to look for metacommunity structure indicative of environmental specialization and interactions between species. The analysis revealed increasingly complex community structure in the later fossil assemblages, suggesting that species were becoming more specialized and engaging in more inter-species interactions towards the end of the Ediacaran era, a trend often seen during ecological succession.

"The results point to competitive exclusion, rather than mass extinction, as the cause of the diversity drop in the late Ediacaran period, the authors say. The analysis indicates that the features of ecological and evolutionary dynamics commonly associated with the Cambrian explosion—such as specialization and niche contraction—were established by the first animal communities in the late Ediacaran.

"Mitchell adds, "We found that the factors behind that explosion, namely community complexity and niche adaptation, actually started during the Ediacaran, much earlier than previously thought. The Ediacaran was the fuse that lit the Cambrian explosion.'"

Comment: I have seen the picture of this period in the Edicaran period. They are a variety of frond-like plant-looking, but are thought to be animals. You must download the article to see it:

No complexity like in the Cambrian animals. The phenotypic gap persists, and this article is another Darwinian attempt to shrink the gap.

The missing fossils argument; a new discovery

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 11, 2023, 00:50 (21 days ago) @ David Turell

In a meadow in England:

"Hidden inside a rocky outcrop near a flock of grazing sheep, a miniature world of marine creatures—whose guts, eyes and even brains remain visible after some 462 million years—has been uncovered by researchers.

"Paleontologists Lucy Muir and Joseph Botting discovered the pint-sized fossil trove within walking distance from their home at Castle Bank Quarry in Central Wales. At the time the aquatic creatures were alive, this area was a rocky sea shelf fringing a volcanic island.

"In a new study published online on May 1 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the duo and their colleagues in England, Sweden and China describe the site’s ancient inhabitants, most of which are just a couple of millimeters long and include nozzle-mouthed worms, horseshoe crabs, starfish and early barnacles. Also in the fossil trove are tiny enigmatic holdovers from the preceding Cambrian explosion, a period that started about 540 million years ago, when a burst of diverse life-forms emerged.


"Over several months the paleontologists discovered the fossils of around 170 different species that likely inhabited the rocky slope along a subsiding volcano. In addition to sponges and worms were trilobites, arthropods sporting grasping appendages and a six-legged animal that looked remarkably similar to a primitive insect that did not appear until millions of years later. There was also an animal reminiscent of Opabinia, a weird wonder of the Cambrian that had five eyes and a trunklike proboscis. Many of these evolutionary oddballs were delicately etched into the ash-colored stone, where soft-body features such as gills, digestive tracts, optic nerves and neural tissue—which rarely fossilize—were easily visible.


"...beautifully maintained animals are much rarer in the succeeding Ordovician period. According to Alycia Stigall, a paleontologist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, this is potentially because of a change in ocean chemistry during the Ordovician or a rise in burrowing organisms that exposed the remains of other animals to decay. Without these remnants, scientists know little about the majority of soft-bodied organisms that lived in the aftermath of the Cambrian explosion. “Today nonbiomineralizing organisms make up [around] 70 percent of all animals,” she says, referring to soft-bodied creatures. “Snapshots into the history of nonbiomineralizing animals like the Castle Bank fauna is incredibly important for developing a fuller understanding of the history of life,” adds Stigall, who was not involved in the new study.

"The newfound fossils also offer an unparalleled glimpse into a dynamic chapter of evolution called the great Ordovician biodiversification event. “This is when life started to get really interesting,” Muir says. “As animals diversified, ecosystems became a lot more complicated.” While animal sizes stayed constant throughout the Cambrian, some ecosystems seemed to downsize during the Ordovician. Castle Bank’s fossils are generally small. Most of them measure between 1 and 5 mm.


"The researchers are still working to describe dozens of Castle Bank fossils in greater detail, including the tube-dwelling tentacled creature and the animal that resembles a possible marine precursor to insects. Like it was during the lockdown, their house is currently overflowing with fossils from the site. “Our spare room is so full, you can't sleep on the bed,” Botting says."

Comment: a great new find. No important gaps closed.

The missing fossils argument; all gaps are real

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 11, 2023, 17:32 (21 days ago) @ David Turell

A review article:

"Darwin wrote this about the fossil record in On the Origin of Species:

"By the theory of natural selection all living species have been connected with the parent-species of each genus, by differences not greater than we see between the varieties of the same species at the present day; and these parent-species, now generally extinct, have in their turn been similarly connected with more ancient species; and so on backwards, always converging to the common ancestor of each great class. So that the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great.

"But the “inconceivably great” numbers of transitional links postulated by Darwin have never been found. Indeed, one of the most prominent features of the fossil record is the Cambrian explosion, in which the major groups of animals (called phyla) appeared around the same geological time in a period called the Cambrian, fully formed and without fossil evidence that they diverged from a common ancestor.


"In 1991, a team of paleontologists concluded that the Cambrian explosion “was even more abrupt and extensive than previously envisioned.”

"The abruptness seen in the Cambrian explosion can also be seen on smaller scales throughout the fossil record. Species tend to appear abruptly in the fossil record and then persist unchanged for some period of time (a phenomenon called stasis) before they disappear. In 1972, paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould called this pattern punctuated equilibria. According to Gould, “every paleontologist always knew” that it is the dominant pattern in the fossil record. In other words, the “inconceivably great” numbers of transitional links postulated by Darwin are missing not just in the Cambrian explosion, but throughout the fossil record. (my bold)

"Even if we did have a good fossil record, we would still need our imagination to produce narratives about ancestor-descendant relationships. Here’s why: If you found two human skeletons buried in a field, how could you know whether one was descended from the other? Without identifying marks and written records, or perhaps in some cases DNA, it would be impossible to know. Yet you would be dealing with two skeletons from the same recent, living species. With two different, ancient, extinct species — often far removed from each other in time and space — there would be no way to demonstrate an ancestor-descendant relationship.

"Decades ago, paleontologist Gareth Nelson wrote, “The idea that one can go to the fossil record and expect to empirically recover an ancestor-descendant sequence, be it of species, genera, families, or whatever, has been, and continues to be, a pernicious illusion.” In 1999, evolutionary biologist Henry Gee wrote that “it is effectively impossible to link fossils into chains of cause and effect in any valid way.” He concluded, “To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story — amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific.'”

Comment: note my bold. Species appear abruptly. Last for some time and disappear. Each abrupt appearance creates a gap. Darwin was wrong in his suppositions. Where does that leave Darwin's common descent. In most cases phenotypic descent can be seen. But abrupt appearance is common. That leads to intelligent design's point. A designer fits this pattern. He can stick in a new design wherever He wishes.

The missing fossils argument; the Devonian explosion

by David Turell @, Friday, May 12, 2023, 19:00 (20 days ago) @ David Turell

Another huge gap refuting Darwinian gradualism:

"Klug et al. (2010) described a previously overlooked radical change in the composition of the marine fauna of the Early Devonian, which they called the Devonian Nekton Revolution. Prior to this abrupt event, the marine ecosystems were dominated by organisms that lived either close to the seafloor (demersal) or passively drifting as plankton. Between 410-400 million years ago, a very sudden and enormous expansion of actively swimming (nektonic) animals occurred in the Devonian era, when groups such as ammonoid cephalopods and jawed fish made their first appearance. Within just 10 million years such active swimmers increased from only 5 percent to about 75 percent of the marine faunal biodiversity (see the chart below).

"The authors commented in a later paper that “this macroecological event corresponds to an explosive trend from planktonic and demersal marine animals toward true nekton as represented by the great diversification of jawed fish and ammonoids, reflecting a selection for swimming capabilities. It coincided with macroevolutionary transformations among various mollusc groups” (Monnet et al. 2011) and “is strongly linked with the rise of predatory jawed vertebrates, which also became more active swimmers in the same interval” (Klug et al. 2017, also see Anderson et al. 2011)".

Comment: as fully note before, species suddenly appear, last a while and then disappear. Nothing like Darwin theory of gradualism.

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