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Creation 41(4):12–14, October 2019

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A painting ‘95 million years’ in the making?



A rather unusual painting hangs in Oslo’s Natural History Museum, Norway. Displayed beside a magnificent fossil octopus is a painting meant to depict it when alive. What makes this painting so unusual is that the ink used to paint it came from the same ink sac that can be observed in the fossil.1 It is quite literally a painting in the present made from pieces of the past.

While evolutionists claim the fossil octopus is 95 million years old, it serves instead as a demonstration of the rapid deposition of sediments during the Noahic Flood some 4,500 years ago.

Soft tissue fossilized?

The fossil octopus, thought to be the species Keuppia levante, was discovered in limestone rock in Lebanon. Due to its soft body, any fossil octopus should provoke some seriously raised eyebrows from evolutionists. Dirk Fuchs, lead author of a team that discovered five other octopuses2 close by, describes the quandary:

The body of an octopus is composed almost entirely of muscle and skin. When an octopus dies, it quickly decays and liquefies into a slimy blob. After just a few days there will be nothing left at all. And that assumes that the fresh carcass is not consumed almost immediately by scavengers. The result is that preservation of an octopus as a fossil is about as unlikely as finding a fossil sneeze.3

Speaking about the octopus in question, paleontologist Jørn Hurum of Oslo’s Natural History Museum stated, “We don’t know exactly how this got to be so well preserved but the conditions for it must have been terrific.”4

While the solution to the preservation is of course an exceptionally quick deposition of lime-rich sediment covering it, the appropriate mechanism seems to continually escape evolutionists.

The issue has a wider context than just these octopuses. What process in the past could not only fossilize these, but all the other animals also found preserved in the same Lebanese limestone—such as fishes, birds, snakes, pterosaurs, dinosaurs, turtles, plants, insects, etc.? And also the many other well-preserved fossil creatures worldwide? Secular geologists continually struggle with this sort of question because they deny the history of the Bible. Meanwhile, those who acknowledge the Bible as a truthful, accurate account of God’s judgment on the earth have the obvious fossilization mechanism—the global Flood of Noah.

© Esther van Hulsen (used with permission)actual-fossil
Fig. 1. (a) The actual fossil of the extinct octopus and a sample of the ink reconstituted; (b) Norway-based Dutch artist Esther van Hulsen at work with the ink on the drawing; (c) the completed artwork.

Inky preservation

Preserved with the octopus, and visible to the eye, is its dried-out ink sac. Norway-based Dutch artist Esther van Hulsen was given some of the powdered ink taken directly from the fossil cephalopod. To use the ink to create the painting, she diluted it with water (Fig. 1 above).

What gives the ink its colouring is that ~10% of its makeup is a biological pigment called eumelanin,5 one of the two forms of melanin.6 This “absorbs all wavelengths of light and thus gives squid [/octopus] ink … [its] black colour.”7 It is made in the creature’s ink gland within specialized cells called melanocytes, by special components called melanosomes. These rupture to release the eumelanin, clumped in granules, into the ink sac.8

Note that the pigment has not been replaced during fossilization; in this and similar fossils,9 the eumelanin is still intact,10 giving the black colour. In other words the octopus ink sac contains the very same biological pigment as when the animal was alive. Jakob Vinther, lecturer in macroevolution and specialist on the preservation of melanin in fossils, admits, “For decades scientists have assumed that pigments hardly ever survive the fossilization process.”11

This thinking is not hard to understand, as the pigment molecules should have fallen apart long ago if they were millions of years old—but they remain intact. Yet despite their preservation, long thought impossible, being visibly demonstrated in such paintings, evolutionists still do not question their assigned age for the fossil.

Fig. 2. A letter dated 9 September 1833 from the paleontologist Elizabeth Philpot to Mary Buckland, contains sketches of an ichthyosaur skull painted in ink from a fossil squid found in the same ‘Jurassic Coast’ deposit as the ichthyosaur—allegedly 200 million years old.*
* Tales from the Jurassic Coast, morethanadodo.com, 11 October 2016.

Not the first time

Phil Yeomans/​Shutterstockcephalopod
Fig. 3. The fossil cephalopod discovered in 2009 by Dr Phil Wilby—drawn here in its own ink.

The idea of using ink from fossils has been tried before. In fact, the inspiration for the octopus painting came from the actions of Mary Anning,12 a famous nineteenth-century fossil hunter in Southern England. In 1826, after cutting up a fossil belemnite (an extinct cephalopod with many features in common with squid and cuttlefish), Anning discovered a chamber with its dried-up ink. She then showed the discovery to her friend Elizabeth Philpot, another famous fossil hunter. Philpot added the ink to some water, revivifying it, and began to paint with it.13 She did a number of paintings of extinct animals and even wrote letters using ink from a range of fossilized cephalopods (see fig. 2 above).

And in 2009, a fossil squid was discovered in Wiltshire, UK, supposedly 150 million years old.14 Its ink, preserved in three dimensions, was mixed with ammonia, then used to draw a picture of it (Fig. 3).

Which ink do you trust?

Before the ink was even dry on the canvas, the octopus painting already told a story. Not one of millions of years, but rather one of only thousands, and of the superb preservation that took place in the global Flood. The ink of the printed Bible tells us the true history of the world, and such brilliant examples consistently demonstrate its reliability.

Posted on homepage: 22 June 2020

References and notes

  1. Mok, K., Artist draws prehistoric octopus with its own 95 million year old ink, treehugger.com, 17 May 2016. Return to text.
  2. Graham, G., Fast octopus fossils reveal no evolution, Creation 31(4):40–41, 2009; creation.com/fast-octopus-fossils. Return to text.
  3. Rare fossil octopuses found, livescience.com, 18 Mar 2009. Return to text.
  4. Biørnstad, L., How scientists made this 95 million-year-old octopus look good, sciencenordic.com, 28 Feb 2017. Return to text.
  5. Glass, K. and 10 others, Direct chemical evidence for eumelanin pigment from the Jurassic period, PNAS 109(26):10218–10223, 2012. Return to text.
  6. The other is the reddish pheomelanin. Human skin typically makes both; due to a mutation, redheads mainly produce the latter. Return to text.
  7. Vinther, J., The true colours of dinosaurs, Scientific American 316(3):42–49, 2017. Return to text.
  8. Derby, C., Cephalopod ink: production, chemistry, functions & applications, Marine Drugs 12(5):2700–2730, 2014. Return to text.
  9. Colleary, C. and 15 others, Chemical, experimental, and morphological evidence for diagenetically altered melanin in exceptionally preserved fossils, PNAS 112(41):12592–12597, 2015. Return to text.
  10. Glass et al., ref. 5, p. 10221. Return to text.
  11. Vinther, ref. 7, p. 52. Return to text.
  12. Wieland, M., Mary Anning: Fossils, faith, and the folly of compromise, creation.com/mary-anning, 20 Sep 2016. Return to text.
  13. Emling, S., The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, p. 109, 2009. Return to text.
  14. Wieland, C., Fossil squid ink that still writes! creation.com/fossil-squid-ink, 15 Sep 2009. Return to text.