‘Remarkable’ mammal hairs in amber?
Published: 22 June 2010 (GMT+10)
Image by R. Vullo, news.bbc.co.uk
Figure 1. The microscopic details of this hair are identical to modern mammal hair—but this is supposed to be from the Cretaceous, 100 million years ago, supposedly way back in the ‘age of dinosaurs’.
Amber, which is fossilised tree resin, is a fascinating substance (See Amber needed water (and lots of it)). It has preserved stunning specimens of many different types of biological structures and organisms, from bacteria1 to insects,2 and even marine life.3 Many of these organisms are said to have been preserved for over 100 million years. The latest amber-encased fossil find that has made headlines is that of some strands of mammalian hair, which have supposedly been preserved in almost pristine condition for 100 million years (figure 1).4 They were found in the Font-de-Benon quarry at Archingeay-Les Nouillers in Charente-Maritime, southwest France.5 It has been making headlines because it apparently shows that mammal hairs have remained untouched by evolution for the last 100 million years. So what should we make of this find?
The exceptional 3D preservation of the hair enabled the researchers to compare the hairs to living mammals to see if there was any difference. The researchers found that the hairs were ‘remarkably similar’ to modern mammal hair. For the evolutionist, “This discovery implies that the morphology of hair cuticula may have remained unchanged throughout most of mammalian evolution.”4
Mammals in the ‘age of the dinosaurs’
The popular impression among people today is that mammals in the dinosaur era, if they existed at all, were only small, reptile-like creatures and only diversified after the dinosaurs died out. However, from a biblical perspective, mammals, even in the so-called ‘age of the dinosaurs’, would not be radically different to mammals today. Of course, some mammal kinds may have died out, and modern-day mammals are the genetically impoverished descendants of the original kind (which is why we would not expect a domestic cat in ‘dinosaur rock’, for instance). But a creationist would anticipate that any hair or fur, one of the chief distinguishing characteristics between mammals and reptiles, would be identical to that of mammals today, and this is exactly what this find shows. By way of aside, a general rule of thumb for the fossil record, which is also the case with these mammal hairs, is that when one finds the same type of creature in a fossil as the living form, then the more detail that is preserved in the fossil, the more striking will be the similarity of the fossils to living creatures.
However, it’s more than just the detail of this particular fossil that points in this direction. The entire fossil record bears witness to this. Mammal fossils with ever increasing diversity and specialization have been found over the last 15 years even back into the Jurassic.6
And most orders of mammals were present well before the dinosaurs supposedly went extinct, while there was little change when the dinosaurs supposedly went extinct.7 After commenting on a number of recent mammal fossil finds, Oard comments:
“Evolutionists would have expected that any mammals found that were this ‘old’ to be generalized and able to evolve in many different directions with time. However, all these mammals are surprisingly (to the evolutionists) specialized and diverse—clear back in the Middle Jurassic!”8
Even on evolutionary assumptions, it’s now plain that mammals lived in great diversity and abundance with dinosaurs. From a biblical perspective, we would expect mammals and dinosaurs to be buried together, at least in part because they are both land-dwelling animals. Since the Flood caused a lot of mixing, however, this is not a hard and fast rule, but a general guide that still allows for a lot of randomization of fossil placement:
“Dinosaurs and trilobites lived in different environments, and we would expect a vertical order in the Flood [i.e. land animals (dinosaurs) above marine animals (trilobites)]. However, I would be more cautious in developing a vertical order with organisms from the same or similar environments”.9
Mammal hair non-evolution
These mammal hairs also present a problem for evolution: nothing has changed (figure 1). And they are only the tip of the iceberg. The big problem for evolution is that the general rule of the fossil record is that things stay the same (see Fossils questions and answers). Darwin recognized this in his own day, but relied on people finding the intermediate fossils after him:
“We should not forget that only a small portion of the world is known with accuracy.”10
But this problem has not been solved in 150 years of searching since Darwin wrote those words. The fossil record is certainly incomplete for evolutionists, but if people have only found a few disputable transitional fossils in 150 years, with tens of thousands of tons of fossils found, then the problem is not with the fossils, it’s with the prediction and the idea that gave birth to it: evolution.
Despite the failure of Darwin’s original prediction, researchers still readily use evolution to explain patterns in the fossil record. But now evolution, which by definition means change, can also accommodate non-change in the fossil record (See Evolutionary stasis). Evolution has become a rather neat way to explain the fossil record: it can now account for every sort of change you can think of, and even no change at all! Wow! But if it can explain everything in the fossil record, that means it is incapable of predicting anything. And that is why evolution is an utterly meaningless concept for explaining patterns in the fossil record (See The slow rise of dinosaurs). As ReMine quipped: “Evolutionary theory predicts nothing, not even a nested hierarchy. Rather, the theory adapts to data like a fog adapts to landscape.”11
However, stasis in the fossil record is not a problem for the biblical worldview. On the contrary, this is what it would expect, i.e. if we observed in the fossil record what Darwin predicted (countless chains of ‘links’, with untold thousands of indisputable transitional fossils) then the Bible’s explanation would be seriously undermined, if not falsified completely.
The Bible is remarkable
The creationist may well ask: how can this find then be ‘remarkable’? It further confirms what we would expect from the fossil record as a general rule: fully formed and recognizable structures that don’t change. They are also one more piece of evidence that we have on hand that confirms that the Bible gives us the perfect starting place for understanding the fossil record. And that is certainly worth a remark, i.e. ‘remarkable’.
References and notes
- Greenblatt, C.L., et al., Diversity of microorganisms isolated from amber, Microbial Ecology 38:58–68, 1999. Return to text.
- Catchpoole, D., Fossil ant found alive! Creation 28(4):56, 2006. Return to text.
- Schmidt, A.R. and Dilcher, D.L., Aquatic organisms as amber inclusions and examples from a modern swamp forest, PNAS, USA 104(42):16581–16585, 16 October, 2007. Return to text.
- Vullo, R., Girard, V., Azar, D. and Néraudeau, D., Mammalian hairs in Early Cretaceous amber, Naturwissenschaften DOI: 10.1007/s00114-010-0677-8, 14 May 2010. Return to text.
- Walker, M., Prehistoric mammal hair found in Cretaceous amber, BBC News, 14 June 2010. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Jurassic mammals—more surprisingly diverse, J. Creation 21(2)1011, 2007. Return to text.
- Bininda-Emonds, O.R.P., Cardillo, M., Jones, K.E., MacPhee, R.D.E., Beck, R.M.D., Grenyer, R., Price, S.A., Vos, R.A., Gittleman, J.L. and Purvis, A., The delayed rise of present-day mammals, Nature 446:507–511, 2007; see also Oard, M.J., Dinosaur demise did not jump start mammal evolution, J. Creation 22(1):1112, 2008. Return to text.
- Oard, ref. 6, p. 11. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J. The Geological Column is a general Flood order with many exceptions; in: Reed, J.K. and Oard, M.J., The Geologic Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology, Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, AZ, p. 102, 2006. Return to text.
- Darwin, C., On the Origin of Species, 1st ed., 1859; Ch. 9: On the imperfection of the geological record; See also Batten, D., Would Darwin be a Darwinist today? Creation 31(4):48–51, 2009. Return to text.
- ReMine, W., The Biotic Message: Evolution versus Message Theory, St Paul Science, St Paul, MN, p.350, 1993. Return to text.