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Floating fish and fossil fables

Louisiana fish kill destroys fossil formation ideas

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Published: 18 January 2011 (GMT+10)

Photo by Billy Nungesser/WWL

Massive floating fish grave in Louisiana shows fish bodies don’t sit underwater waiting to be fossilized.

Figure 1. Massive floating fish grave in Louisiana shows fish bodies don’t sit underwater waiting to be fossilized.

In mid-September 2010, a massive fish kill was reported in Louisiana amid fears it was caused by the catastrophic BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico in April.1 After a thorough investigation, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries concluded the fish kill was caused by low oxygen levels from low tides and high water temperatures.1 However, note what happened to the fish. They all ended up floating on top of the water in a vast mat of sea creatures (figure 1). This colossal kill can help clear up some basic misconceptions about the formation of fossils, something that has far reaching implications.

Most people think fossils take millions of years to form. They get this idea from what is taught in textbooks and museums, which use drawings depicting how fossils form, such as figure 2. The story starts by showing a dead animal sinking to the bottom of the ocean, where it lies on the sediment waiting to be fossilized. Slowly, more sediment accumulates and gradually buries the dead creature over millions of years until it’s completely covered. The sediment then hardens and fossilizes the dead creature inside it. The land is uplifted, the sediment eroded until the fossil is exposed after more millions of years, ready for scientists to dig up.

This diagram of the formation of a dinosaur fossil from the National Dinosaur Museum, in Canberra, Australia, illustrates the popular millions-of-years story of how fossils form.

Figure 2. This diagram of the formation of a dinosaur fossil from the National Dinosaur Museum, in Canberra, Australia, illustrates the popular millions-of-years story of how fossils form.

This massive fish kill in Louisiana illustrates why this popular story is wrong. The thousands of sea creatures are floating—they’re not lying on the riverbed waiting to be covered in sediment and fossilized. The scavengers and bacteria don’t leave these sorts of kills alone. Under such conditions they break down the corpses very quickly, leaving practically nothing to sink and fossilize.

The incredible fish kill in Louisiana demonstrates that the traditional story we are told about fossil formation is wrong. Millions of years of time are not needed.

For fossils to form, this decay process needs to be prevented by rapidly burying the dead creatures in sediment. That restricts access to oxygen and scavengers, which prevents rapid breakdown. The final process in forming the fossil usually involves a mineral cement that turns the sediment into stone, but that process does not take millions of years either. (See Dinosaur bones—just how old are they really?)

The incredible fish kill in Louisiana demonstrates that the traditional story we are told about fossil formation is wrong. Millions of years of time are not needed. Dead fish don’t sink to be slowly buried by sediment. The fossil record testifies that something abnormal happened in the past that buried the animals quickly. Such fossil formation is completely consistent with global catastrophe of the biblical Flood.

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References

  1. Dykes, B.M., Massive fish kill reported in Louisiana, Yahoo News, 14 September 2010. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Tyro N., Australia
This is incredible! I am amazed how people can still believe in fossils with all this evidence!
Patrick B., United Kingdom
It would be interesting to see a similar picture of these fish, a short time later, after their corpses have been broken down by bacteria and scavengers.
Brad W., United States
While most of your articles are well reasoned, this one isn’t up to your usual standards.
“The incredible fish kill in Louisiana demonstrates that the traditional story we are told about fossil formation is wrong. Millions of years of time are not needed.”
While the fish kill certainly raises questions about how fossils are going to form when the fish are floating, it says nothing about how fossils *did* form, and especially about how many years it might or might not take.
“Millions of years of time are not needed.” is a complete leap of logic that clearly does not follow from the evidence presented.
HTH,

Brad.

Shaun Doyle responds

Thank you for your feedback. There are two questions to ask from this floating fish kill in relation to the traditional picture of fossil formation: (1) are they sitting underwater slowly being covered with sediment? No, they are floating—they will sink after being substantially scavenged. And, (2) is there anything preventing the normal decay process, which leaves next to nothing behind? No. This is significant because it puts a time limit of perhaps a few years for fossilization, rather than millions of years. Since the answer to both questions is no, and this is a normal occurrence, the traditional picture is contradicted by this find. Where in the world do we see vast graveyards or boneyards waiting to be inundated with sediment for fossilization? We don’t.

One question remains: how would this fish kill get fossilized? Simple: inundate it with sediment to prevent the decay process from proceeding any further. But this has to occur before the decay process is finished.

The point is that we should be able to observe the process occurring if the traditional picture were true, but we don’t. Rather we see the opposite, e.g. the Louisiana fish kill.

Most informed evolutionists also acknowledge this traditional timespan for fossilization is wrong. However, a lot of the public are not informed on these issues, and it needs to be pointed out that this traditional picture is false, especially since it has been used as evidence against creationism in the past.

Jim M., Japan
Just a quick question. I understand about dead bodies floating and being scavengerized or whatever, but at least in the fossils that don’t have tissue preserved, wouldn’t the bones eventually sink and then possibly become fossilized after the flesh has rotted off?
Shaun Doyle responds

Thank you for your feedback. A rotting corpse will eventually sink, but the decomposition process doesn’t stop with the soft tissue. The bones are unlikely to be left alone even underwater. The sedimentation rate has to exceed the rate at which the bones are broken up and/or scattered, which is not a normal happening. Please see Whale explodes fossil theory for more information.

Marildine L., South Africa
This has certainly got me thinking about a lot of myths and other things even where we really come from as different nations
David R., Australia
Your story so reminded me of the floating whale in South Australia, where in the midst of the media frenzy showing people standing on the carcass while sharks were feeding off it. It occurred to me that not one scientist stood up and declared that they should get off the whale before it sank, no they were amazingly silent, yet the same picture of the sinking dinosaur is on display in the museum.

Editor: Indeed so. But Creation magazine was on top of the story: see Whale explodes fossil theory, as noted aboveSmilies

Richard M., United States
Shaun Doyle says “Slowly, more sediment accumulates and gradually buries the dead creature over millions of years until it’s completely covered.” No one, except perhaps for a creationist constructing a strawman, would claim that the process of burying a creature until it is completely covered requires millions of years. Yet I hear this claim time and time again from creationist sources. However, the superficiality of the other arguments presented has probably fossilized this one.
Shaun Doyle responds

I made the point answering another comment that informed evolutionists don’t argue like this, and that I am well aware of this. Nevertheless, the idea is still prevalent in the culture, as shown by figure 2. We not only seek to address the most up-to-date arguments, but also to reveal popular misconceptions for what they are.

Moreover, fossils are evidence for rapid sedimentation. Rapid sedimentation means not much time. Mainstream geologists concede rapid sedimentation yet they continue to hold onto the concept of millions of years for the sedimentary record. They are the ones who have the time problem.

Graham P., New Zealand
I saw a similar event in NZ yesterday, where a huge school of red snapper died, possibly due to cyanide-producing bacteria that feed on sedimentary plumes.

The thousands of floating snapper were washed up on beaches, in various states of decay, many just skin & scales and bones, others just dead.

Patrick T., United States
Yes this is very strong evidence that should cause many scientist in this field to reevaluate there primary assumptions concerning fossils. They do not for they know the deeper the dig with an unbiased shovel the more they will only validate the creation account. They do what what was prophesied about them [suppress the truth in unrighteousness].
Peter B., Germany
No wonder that Richard Dawkins wrote in his newest book that evolution was so obvious even without the fossils…Smilies
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