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Creation 41(3):46–47, July 2019

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Fossils in a day?

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Paleontologists (fossil experts) traditionally believe that time—lots of it—is an essential ingredient to form fossils. But a paper by three scientists in the online journal Palaeontology indicates they may well have created fossils in a single day.

Palaeontology, 2018 p. 5 … used with permissionlizard-before-burial
 A collation of experimental (before burial) and maturation images of a lizard. Images A, D and F represent experimental lizard foot, hand and head, whilst images B, C, E and G are maturation images of the same. In comparison, K and L are actual lizard fossils. H and I show exposed melanosomes, bodies that make and store melanin (for colour and photoprotection); J shows fossil melanosomes.

A summary of their paper is titled: “Researchers have discovered how to make proper fossils—in a day”. It says they “figured out a way—by compressing that incredibly lengthy process into a day.”

Taphonomy is a field within paleontology that studies the chemical and physical processes of decay and fossilization. Such scientists have long recognized that heat and pressure are especially necessary ingredients for forming fossils. Of course, there is plenty of pressure on deep sediments, and in addition to the heating associated with this there are also many lava flows throughout the fossil record.

To experimentally mimic the fossilization process, taphonomists have undertaken what they call maturation experiments. These often involve placing an organic specimen (say a leaf or feather) in a small sealed capsule and then heating and pressurizing the contents. These experiments are meant to speed up the rate of chemical degradation and shorten the time for fossil formation.

In the Palaeontology paper, the researchers noted that traditional maturation experiments face challenges. One of the more significant of these is that labile molecules (relatively unstable substances that are readily changed or broken down) and volatile molecules (those which readily evaporate) should be lost during maturation, but are instead trapped inside the holding capsule. As a result, an organic specimen can become more of a soft, spongy ‘mush’ than anything like a fossil.

So these three scientists decided on what they called a ‘novel’ approach. They first buried the organic specimens within easily-compacted clay, and then applied pressure to make a ‘tablet’ of clay with the specimen inside. These tablets were then placed inside the capsules.

The purpose was to explore more closely what is stable and what is mobile—what is trapped in the compacted specimen, and what escapes into the sediment. They called this an “initial compaction in sediment, followed by maturation [temperature and pressure].”1

The outcomes were fascinating. According to the Science Alert article, the bird feathers, leaves, resin and other substances were “spectacularly well preserved”. It quotes lead author Saitta as saying:

We were absolutely thrilled. … They looked like real fossils—there were dark films of skin and scales, the bones became browned. Even by eye, they looked right.2

The Palaeontology paper argues:

In this procedure, porous sediment allows maturation breakdown products to escape into the sediment and maturation chamber, while recalcitrant, immobile components are contained, more closely mimicking the natural conditions of fossilization.1

Simply put, “unstable molecules … leak out into the sediment, instead of turning the entire fossil to mush.”1

Their paper goes on to explore the utility of this approach and its implications in explaining the many exceptionally-preserved fossils in the rock record (their origin is a topic of great debate among experts).

Such aspects are certainly worthy of further exploration. But equally important is that the research undertaken highlights the importance of sediment in fossil formation.

Needed—rapid burial

First, the scientists confirm that sediment plays an important role in removing unstable and volatile molecules that would otherwise prevent fossilization.

Second, their results highlight a need to more thoroughly study the sediment—what are its origins, how abundant is the sediment, sediment movement and deposition—because rapidly deposited sediments are needed to induce the pressure needed.3

After many decades of measuring sediment loads and sedimentation rates around the globe (part of my own professional field of interest), we find that in all climatic environments they are remarkably low. Instantaneous deposits from flooding rivers are typically only millimetres or centimetres deep, not the metres or tens of metres needed to induce pressure to speed chemical degradation.

In short, current surface processes of erosion and deposition of sediments cannot explain the billions of fossils found globally. What was needed was a flood of unprecedented magnitude, capable of providing vast quantities of sediment over a short time period.4

These recent experimental results support the description of the global Flood of Noah in Genesis 6–8. This would have provided unprecedented rapid burial in deep sediment that was able to remove unstable and volatile molecules and cause the pressure needed for extensive organic fossil preservation—without millions of years.

References and notes

  1. Saitta, E.T. and 2 others, Sediment-encased maturation: A novel method for simulating diagenesis in organic fossil preservation, Palaeontology, pp. 1–16, 25 Jul 2018. Return to text.
  2. Starr, M., Researchers have discovered how to make proper fossils—in a day; sciencealert.com, 27 Jul 2018. Return to text.
  3. Rapid burial has long been noted in CMI publications; e.g. Wieland, C. Fast fossils: Billions of well-preserved fossil fish clash with popular belief, Creation 19(4):24–25,1997. Return to text.
  4. Oard, M.J. The case for Flood deposition of the Green River Formation, J. Creation 20(1):50–54, 2006. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Reed C.
This is a fantastic discovery. Coal formation, oil formation, petrification, layer formation, and now fossil formation. All of these things typically believed to require millions of years can occur within very short periods of time and do so under conditions that would be present during a global flood.
Ron Neller
I agree, and there are many other articles on our website on the topics that you mentioned.
Bill P.
Great article. In the past I have also seen and read about scientists who did experiments on how oil and coal form rather quickly under the same kind of lab conditions (high pressure, high temps. etc), showing that it does not take millions of yrs. to form. I believe these experiments were also done to form gem stones.
Since this is possible to do under lab conditions then surely secular science must know about these tests but yet still refuse to admit the truth that long periods of time are not needed to form such things, and therefore the earth is a lot younger than what they are telling the rest of the world. ( Romans chap. 1 )
Editor, Present Truth Magazine D.
Wow!! We are sending a link for this to our readership at Present Truth Magazine. Can't thank you enough.
Dale S.
Excellent article! Truth always wins! The scientific fact is that fossils did not take millions of years to form. The fact that scientists can make fossils in a day is a powerful truth to how the fossils were formed during the Genesis Flood. The rapid burial in watery sediments were able to fossilized the organisms before they had a chance to decay. Polystrate fossils tell us that the layers of sediment were laid down quickly during the Genesis Flood. These fossils such as trees were found in many layers of rock strata. The worldwide flood of Genesis chapter six through eight gives us the truth when fossils were made. The geological column with its so-called millions upon millions of years to form is false. The action of the Genesis Flood produced these layers of strata in a very short time.

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