This article is from
Journal of Creation 36(3):6–9, December 2022

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Fossilized animal and bird footprints in megasequences

by , A. Jerry Akridge, and John K. Reed

The naturalistic stratigraphic concept of Sloss sequences, relabelled ‘megasequences’ by several young-earth creationists, had limited technical development in the first few decades following its introduction.1-3 We previously evaluated the concept of Sloss sequences (and Sloss-derived creationist megasequences) but found its application incapable of defending the biblical record of Earth’s history.4 Only recently has a more fully developed presentation of creationist megasequences been published in a book5 and peer-reviewed journals6-10 from which critical analyses can be offered.

Exegesis of Genesis 7 with geologic notes

Perhaps the most biblically relevant application of megasequences was published in an exegesis of Genesis 7.10 This article applies both catastrophic plate tectonics and stratigraphic megasequences to events described in Genesis 7. We focus specifically on the problem of the stratigraphic distribution of fossil animal and bird footprints, tracks, and trackways in the megasequence model.

We applaud the authors for defending the biblical account to demonstrate the Flood was global, catastrophic, and of unparalleled destruction. The significance of Days 1, 40, and 150 to the Flood were reviewed and explained in graphic terms that are consistent with our own expectations regarding this singular event in Earth’s history. We can all agree that all air-breathing terrestrial life, including birds outside the Ark, died by the 150th day of the Flood.

The geologic notes are broad in scope and largely lithostratigraphic with an occasional reference to fossils.11 For example, although the mixing of vertebrate skeletons and marine fossils was interpreted across two megasequences (Absaroka,12 and Zuni13), missing was an explanation of perhaps the most important set of trace fossils—fossilized animal and bird footprints, tracks, and trackways. While floodwater can mix the remains of animals and marine fossils, rendering them allochthonous14 deposits of limited use, the fossilized footprints/tracks/trackways of formerly living creatures must be formed in situ.15 Where these fossilized features represent activities associated with past life, they would be important in discerning their formation relative to Flood Day 150.16

Fossilized animal/bird footprints—when did they form?

Many animal/bird lifeforms could have created footprints/tracks/trackways before the Flood. With the onset of the Flood, living animal17,18 and bird19-22 footprints/tracks/trackways would form in soft Flood-deposited sediment through Day 150 (figure 1). We recognize that footprints are possible following the 150th day of the Flood, based on dead and bobbing animals drifting prone along a soft sediment substrate leaving isolated impressions. However, we would expect these traces to be few in number, random in orientation, and isolated in occurrence.23

Sloss-derived creationist megasequences and the animal/bird fossil footprint record

The application of stratigraphic megasequences to a Bible-based outline of Earth’s history should allow formerly living animal- / bird-formed footprints/tracks/trackways to provide an important biomarker. Their presence in the stratigraphic rock record24 should terminate by the end of Day 150. The specific megasequence (moving from oldest to youngest: Sauk, Tippecanoe, Kaskaskia, Absaroka, Zuni, or Tejas) where this fossil evidence of life was terminated could then be used globally to stratigraphically approximate Day 150 of the Flood.25

Bible-based geologic timescale
Figure 1. A Bible-based geologic timescale with fossilized footprints, tracks, and trackways defined consistent with Scripture. The termination of all living terrestrial animals in association with the global Flood of Genesis would correspond to the end of the first 150 days. Any fossilized animal / bird footprints / tracks / trackways that formed after this day would be from dead and possibly bobbing, prone creatures being carried along by floodwater. Each stratigraphic layer with footprints, tracks, and trackway impressions, whether derived from living or dead life-forms, will need to be defined within the geologic timeframes and divisions shown.
Key Flood Days
Figure 2. The dashed lines define the Key Flood Days from the exegesis of Genesis chapter 7.42 Sloss-derived creationist megasequences cannot define fossilized animal and bird footprints, tracks, and trackways independently from the Naturalistic Geologic Timescale (NGT). Except for the dinosaurian fossilized footprints, animal and bird footprints, tracks, and trackways created by formerly living creatures occur with increasing diversity when moving from the Kaskaskia megasequence to the present time. This linear stratigraphic understanding (based on the NGT) is inconsistent with Scripture and must be rejected unless an explanation can be provided to align these traces with a biblical understanding of Earth’s history.

However, an examination of animal/bird footprints/tracks/trackways defined within Sloss-derived creationist megasequences creates a puzzling situation (figure 2). There is no apparent termination of the fossils as would be expected based on Scripture. The opposite seems to be the case. More diversified fossilized animal/bird footprint, tracks, and trackways occur in moving up the megasequence timescale.26-30 Based on these fossilized traces, life has continued to increase on Earth from the Kaskaskia megasequence to the Tejas megasequence (i.e. present time). We would be interested in understanding how those advocating megasequences would address this issue. This confusing situation with the proliferation of living animal/bird footprints/tracks/trackway trace fossils, created following Day 150, is even more pronounced when viewed through the framework of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (CPT).17

Fossilized animal/bird footprints in the Tejas megasequence

As mentioned previously, the Tejas megasequence contains an abundance of footprints/tracks/trackways created by formerly living animals/birds. This is puzzling, since no living terrestrial life should exist outside the Ark during this time, when, according to advocates of the megasequence model, floodwater was withdrawing from the continents.5,7,8 This is another issue where we request clarity from the supporters of megasequences regarding the apparent contradiction in their megasequence model and the diverse animal/bird trace fossils where none should be found.

Moving forward

The fossil record of animal/bird footprints/tracks/trackways created by formerly living creatures does not fit the Sloss-derived creationist megasequence model. They extend from the Kaskaskia megasequence to the present (top of the Tejas megasequence). These living creatures somehow left footprints in Flood deposits as evidence of their survival. They are found well past the megasequence-defined Day 150 termination of all terrestrial life, as conveyed by Scripture.10 This problem occurs because the megasequences are inexorably linked to the Naturalistic Geologic Timescale (NGT),5,7,8 which cannot be unified to biblical history.31-38 The only way we believe that creationist megasequences can be properly applied stratigraphically is if young-earth creationists abandon the NGT for one aligned with the biblical narrative.39-41 We hope the problems we have identified can be simply and easily addressed by the advocates of creationist megasequences in a way that more consistently defends the biblical account of Earth history (figure 1). We look forward to their response and resolution.

Posted on homepage: 15 December 2023

References and notes

  1. Austin, S.A. and Wise, K.P., The pre-Flood/Flood boundary: as defined in Grand Canyon, Arizona and eastern Mojave Desert, California; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 37–47, 1994. Return to text.
  2. Snelling, A.A., Megasequences of North America: in: Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation, and the Flood, vol. 2, Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, pp. 528–530, 2009. Return to text.
  3. Morris, J. and Johnson, J.J.S., The draining floodwaters: geologic evidence reflects the Genesis text, Acts & Facts 41(1):12–13, 2012. Return to text.
  4. Froede. C.R., Jr., Akridge, A.J., and Reed, J.K., Can ‘megasequences’ help define biblical geologic history? J. Creation 29(2):16–25, 2015. Return to text.
  5. Clarey, T.L., Carved in Stone: Geologic evidence of the worldwide Flood, Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, 2020. Return to text.
  6. Clarey, T.L. and Werner, D.J., The sedimentary record demonstrates minimal flooding of the continents during Sauk Deposition, ARJ 10:271–283, 2017. Return to text.
  7. Clarey, T.L. and Werner, D.J., Global stratigraphy and the fossil record validate a Flood origin for the geologic column; in: Whitmore, J.H. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 327–350, 2018. Return to text.
  8. Clarey, T.L. and Werner, D.J., Use of sedimentary megasequences to re-create pre-Flood geography; in: Whitmore, J.H. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 351–372, 2018. Return to text.
  9. Clarey, T.L. and Werner, D.J., The pre-Flood world resembled Pangaea, J. Creation 34(2):8–11, 2020. Return to text.
  10. Johnson, J.J.S. and Clarey, T.L., God floods Earth, yet preserves Ark-borne humans and animals: exegetical and geological notes on Genesis chapter 7, CRSQ 57:248–262, 2021. Return to text.
  11. Fossils remain the dominant means of dividing time through the Naturalistic Geologic Timescale and in following the creationist ‘Geologic Column’ (see Snelling, A.A., Ernst, M., Scheven, E., Scheven, J., Austin, S.A., Wise, K.P., Garner, P., Garton, M., and Tyler, D., The geological record, J. Creation 10(3):333–334, 1996). Great care must be used when applying fossils to a biblical interpretation due to the inherent naturalistic assumptions (see Froede, C.R., Jr., The global stratigraphic record, J. Creation 11(1):40–43, 1997.) Return to text.
  12. Johnson and Clarey, ref. 10, p. 257. Return to text.
  13. Johnson and Clarey, ref. 10, p. 259. Return to text.
  14. Defined as geologic/biologic materials that were derived and transported from another location—not original to where the deposit is presently found. This resulting mixed deposit presents problems when attempting to define the original paleoenvironment and associated fauna. Return to text.
  15. Lockley, M.G., Hunt, A.P., and Meyer, C.A., Vertebrate tracks and the ichnofacies concept: implications for palaeoecology and palichnostratigraphy; in: Donovan, S.K. (Ed.), The Palaeobiology of Trace Fossils, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, pp. 241–268, 1994. Return to text.
  16. Our discussion is limited to that portion of geologic time when living animals created footprints/tracks/trackways found in the vertical stratigraphic rock record. These impressions created from former living lifeforms would only occur before the end of the first 150 days. Return to text.
  17. Froede, C.R., Jr., Akridge, A.J., and Reed, J.K., Phanerozoic animal tracks: a challenge for Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, CRSQ 51:96–103, 2014; see references therein. Return to text.
  18. Wroblewski, A.F.J. and Gulas-Wroblewski, B.E., Earliest evidence of marine habitat use by mammals, Scientific Reports 11:8846, 2021 ǀ doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88412-3. Return to text.
  19. de Valais, S. and Melchor, R., Ichnotaxonomy of bird-like footprints: an example from the Late Triassic–Early Jurassic of Northwest Argentina, J. Vertebrate Paleontology 28:145–159, 2008. Return to text.
  20. Genise, J.F., Melchor, R.N., Archangelsky, M., Bala, L.O., Straneck, R., and de Valais, S., Application of neoichnological studies to behavioural and taphonomic interpretation of fossil bird-like tracks from lacustrine settings: the Late Triassic–Early Jurassic? Santo Domingo Formation, Argentina, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 272:143–161, 2009. Return to text.
  21. Martin, A.J., Vickers-Rich, P., Rich, T., and Hall, M., Oldest known avian footprints from Australia: Eumeralla Formation (Albian), Dinosaur Cove, Victoria, Australia, Palaeontology 57:7–19, 2014. Return to text.
  22. Lockley, M., Buckley, L., Foster, J., Kirkland, J., and DeBlieux, D., First report of bird tracks (Aquatilavipes) from the Cedar Mountain Formation (Lower Cretaceous), eastern Utah, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 420:150–162, 2015 ǀ doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.12.014. Return to text.
  23. Only through a detailed study of the site-specific stratigraphy and trace fossil impressions could this determination be made. Return to text.
  24. The term ‘rock record’ means the record of the actual rocks, sediments, and fossils found vertically at any specific location with no implied time gaps that may be inferred/imposed using the Naturalistic Geologic Timescale. Return to text.
  25. The biomarker footprint/track/trackway fossil impression would only apply to former living terrestrial creatures, and only a careful study of a particular site would establish whether it was formed from a living animal/bird. If the footprint(s) were identified as more likely from a dead and bobbing animal, then it would be assigned to a post-Day 150 formed trace fossil. Return to text.
  26. Schult, M.F. and Farlow, J.O., Vertebrate trace fossils; in: Maples, C.G. and West, R.R. (Eds.), Trace Fossils, Short Courses in Paleontology No. 5, The Paleontological Society, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, pp. 34–63, 1992. Return to text.
  27. Lockley, M., The Eternal Trail: A tracker looks at evolution, Perseus Books, Reading, MA, 1999. Return to text.
  28. Lucas, S.G., Spielmann, J.A., and Lockley, M.G., Cenozoic Vertebrate Tracks and Traces, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, Bulletin 42, Albuquerque, NM, 2007. Return to text.
  29. Hasiotis, S.T., Platt, B.F., Hembree, D.I., and Everhart, M.J., The trace-fossil record of vertebrates; in: Miller, W., III. (Ed.), Trace Fossils Concepts, Problems, Prospects, Elsevier, New York, pp. 196–218, 2007. Return to text.
  30. Matsukawa, M. and Shibata, K., Review of Japanese Cenozoic (Miocene–Modern) vertebrate tracks, Ichnos 22:261–290, 2015 ǀ doi.org/10.1080/10420940.2015.1064407. Return to text.
  31. Reed, J.K. and Froede, C.R., Jr., The uniformitarian stratigraphic column—shortcut or pitfall for creation geology? CRSQ 40:90–98, 2003. Return to text.
  32. Reed, J.K., Klevberg, P., and Froede, C.R., Jr., Interpreting the rock record without the uniformitarian geologic column; in: Reed, J.K. and Oard, M.J. (Eds.), The Geologic Column, Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, AZ, pp. 123–143, 2006. Return to text.
  33. Reed, J.K., Toppling the timescale, part I: evaluating the terrain, CRSQ 44:174–178, 2008. Return to text.
  34. Reed, J.K., Toppling the timescale, part III: madness in the methods, CRSQ 45:6–17, 2008. Return to text.
  35. Reed, J.K., Toppling the timescale, part IV: assaying the golden (FeS2) spikes, CRSQ 45:81–89, 2008. Return to text.
  36. Froede, C.R., Jr. and Akridge, A.J., A developing schism in Flood geology, J. Creation 27(2):49–54, 2013. Return to text.
  37. Reed, J.K., Rocks Aren’t Clocks, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2013. Return to text.
  38. Froede, C.R., Jr. and Akridge, A.J., The potential impact of the Naturalistic geologic column on biblical history, Creation Matters 20(6):6–9, 2015. Return to text.
  39. Walker, T., A biblical geologic model; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 581–592, 1994. Return to text.
  40. Froede, C.R., Jr., A proposal for a creationist geological timescale, CRSQ 32:90–94, 1995. Return to text.
  41. Froede, C.R., Jr., Geology by Design, Chapter 1—Defining the rock record within the context of biblical history, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2007. Return to text.
  42. Johnson and Clarey, ref. 10, figure 2, p. 260. Return to text.

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