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Geology documents dinosaurs fleeing Noah’s Flood

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Published: 19 February 2015 (GMT+10)

In February 2015, geologists Tracy Thomson and Mary Droser, in an article published online by the journal Geology, released graphic evidence for the reality of Noah’s Flood.1

Swimming animals left tracks underwater

Thomson and Droser Lark-Quarry-trackmaker
Figure 1. Swim trackway from Capitol Reef National Park, USA.

The Geological Society of America press release shows a sandstone block sitting vertically in the field with tracks running for a few metres across its surface (figure 1). These are interpreted as swimming tracks because the imprints represent only a part of the foot. Consequently it is assumed that the animal was being supported by water. Thomson and Droser explain:

Swim tracks are a unique type of vertebrate track because they are produced underwater by buoyant trackmakers, and specific factors are required for their production and subsequent preservation.2

Swim tracks are found all over the world, including dinosaur tracks in northern Spain, which consist of claw marks made on the sand surface as the animal was on tip-toes trying to move through deep flowing water.

Famous dinosaur trackways in Lark Quarry, Queensland, (assigned to the mid-Cretaceous) have been re-interpreted as having formed underwater, with the water levels fluctuating rapidly (figure 2).3

Illustration by Anthony Romilio, The University of Queensland. lark-quarry-swimming-dinosaur
Figure 2. Hypothesized reconstruction of the small Lark Quarry trackmaker.

Thomson and Droser note that there was something unusual about this period of earth history because of the number of tracks made by animals swimming in shallow water:

Early Triassic deposits contain the highest number of fossil swim track occurrences worldwide compared to other epochs, and this number becomes even greater when epoch duration and rock outcrop area are taken into account.

This spike in swim track occurrences suggests that during the Early Triassic, factors promoting swim track production and preservation were more common than at any other time.2

This situation is easily explained by Biblical geology. In broad terms, this portion of the geologic column represents the period of Noah’s Flood when the floodwaters were rising toward their peak, which occurred somewhere around the top of the Cretaceous.4 (See Figure 3 and Haleakala volcano on the Island of Maui.) Indeed, there was something unique about this period of earth history, because a global flood has never happened since.

geologic-timescale-converter
Figure 3. The geological column is a general order of Noahs Flood, but with many exceptions. Most of the column represents rocks deposited/emplaced as the floodwaters were rising on the earth, about 4,500 years ago. Thus the ‘dates’ of millions of years shown on the left side are not correct, but retained to allow conversion between the column and real-time Biblical history.

This period when the waters were rising on the earth is described in the Bible:

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. (Genesis 7:17–20)

Thus, the factors promoting swim track production and preservation during the ‘Early Triassic’, which Thomson and Droser are seeking to identify, are 1) the continual rising floodwaters on the earth, and 2) the herding of land animals into smaller and smaller areas of briefly exposed Flood sediments. All this time the animals were trying to escape drowning, but they were all eventually overcome.

The Bible describes the situation facing the animals and their fate:

Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. (Genesis 7:21–24)

Minimal sediment mixing

Thomson and Droser describe another characteristic of the sediments deposited at this time that is consistent with Noah’s Flood:

… sediment mixing by animals living within the substrate was minimal, especially in particularly stressful environments such as marine deltas. The general lack of sediment mixing during the Early Triassic was the most important contributing factor to the widespread production of firm-ground substrates ideal for recording and preserving subaqueous trace fossils like swim tracks.2

This reworking of sediment by burrowing animals is often called bioturbation. On a marine delta today, worms, crabs, shellfish, etc. burrow into the sediment and mix it up, so that the depositional features in the sediment (such as ripple marks and laminations) are destroyed. However, in the environment where the trackways were made, there was minimal mixing of sediment, such that the depositional features were preserved. This suggests that the sediments were laid down rapidly and that the trackways were made not long after the sediments were deposited, before they could be colonized by burrowing organisms. This is further evidence of a unique situation in earth history.

Incredibly well preserved tracks

The good preservation of the tracks is another feature that Thomson and Droser discuss:

Lower Triassic swim tracks also tend to be better preserved, showing exceptionally detailed features such as scale striae and crescent-shaped claw margins. Preservation of these features required a firm and semicohesive substrate in order to maintain track detail before and after burial.1

Tracks and impressions are quickly removed from beaches and deltas today, as changes in water level driven by waves and tides erode the tracks, and the drying of sediment means the tracks would crumble away. Waters in estuaries and on beaches today are relatively clean, with low sediment content and low dissolved salts. In order for tracks to be preserved the substrate needs to become firm, and that would need some sort of cementing action. By this stage in the Flood, the rising floodwaters would contain much material that would act as a cementing agent. (Videos of modern day tsunamis give an idea of the contaminated condition of the water as it flows onto the land,5 and the waters of the mid-Flood may have been significantly more contaminated than this.) This water would be incorporated into the pores of the deposited sediment, providing conditions for rapid cementation, causing the substrate to quickly become “firm and semicohesive”.

A large delta plain points to high energy deposition

Thomson and Droser describe another characteristic that points to Noah’s Flood:

Swim-track localities from the lower Triassic Moenkopi Formation in Utah (USA) are characterized by … a large delta plain complex.1

The large delta plain would require high-energy depositional processes to spread the sediments over the large area. The large scale of the deposit is characteristic of the catastrophic processes that would have taken place during the Flood.6

A low diversity ecosystem

There is another Flood feature that Thomson and Droser comment on and try to explain:

Within this delta, complex low-diversity invertebrate trace fossil assemblages consist of locally high densities of diminutive, millimeter-scale traces characteristic of stressed brackish-water faunas.1

They are saying that the environments where the trackways were made are not the sorts of environments we see today, because they lack the expected diversity of organisms. Thomson and Droser try to explain this curiosity within their evolutionary, long-age paradigm:

We suggest that the depauperate [imperfectly developed, lacking variety] infauna [organisms inhabiting the seafloor] characteristic of such environments was repressed due to delayed biotic recovery following the end-Permian mass extinction, resulting in extremely low intensities of bioturbation.1

In other words, they speculate that a large proportion of animals had gone extinct at the end of the ‘Permian’, and there had not been enough time for a new diversity of organisms to evolve in a few million years in the early Triassic. However, the same problem of low diversity in sediments containing animal tracks occurs in the sediments before the End Permian, and the trackways ‘after’ the Triassic in the Jurassic and Cretaceous. Thus, the hypothesis of delayed ecologic recovery does not work.

However, low fossil diversity is exactly what we would expect in sediments deposited during the Flood. Fast flowing waters would destroy environments and carry different parts of those environments to different places, sorting it according to various hydraulic factors. That is why it is common, for example, to find leaves, branches and bark from plants deposited in a different place from the solid, broken wooden trunks. As another example, it is common to find organisms from different environments, such as marine and terrestrial, buried together.7

Trackways help classify sediments within Biblical history

Tracks of land animals provide a clue to understanding when the sediments were deposited.8 Tracks are possible in sediments deposited in the early part of the Flood while the waters were rising and before they reached their peak. After that, all the animals had perished, so tracks would not be possible in sediments laid down in the second part of the Flood as the floodwaters were receding. In fact, this period was a time of major erosion on the continents, with kilometres of sediment removed in enormous sheets, a period that some creationists have called the Erodozoic.9 After the Flood, once the animals had been released from the Ark, tracks would again be possible as they recolonised the land and spread out across the continents.

Thomson and Droser describe the geological range over which animal tracks are found:

Fossil tetrapod swim tracks have been reported from deposits throughout the world, ranging in age from the Carboniferous (Mississippian) to the Neogene (Pleistocene).1,11

Based on previous analysis, sediments labelled Carboniferous to Cretaceous would almost certainly be deposited as the floodwaters were rising, as they approached their peak. (This is a general rule-of-thumb, and it may not apply to every location on the earth.10) Trackways in rocks classified as Neogene present an interesting situation requiring further detailed analysis. Some of these trackways would be post-Flood and others are likely to be Flood tracks, formed during the waters-rising stage. This is because the way long-age geologists classify rocks does not necessarily match the actual geological sequence that occurred during the Flood. No tracks could be made by land animals during the waters-falling stage. As mentioned, this stage was characterized by an enormous amount of erosion as the floodwaters receded. The physical scale of the deposit in which they are found, and the amount of erosion of the strata are major factors to help determine their timing, but each set of trackways and their enclosing sediments need to be examined separately.

Conclusion

The paper by Tracy Thomson and Mary Droser provides numerous graphic evidences for the reality of Noah’s Flood. Firstly, the significant number of sites around the world where tracks, preserved on rock horizons, have been made by dinosaurs and other animals that were swimming and supported by the buoyancy of the water. Second, the lack of bioturbation in the sediments points to rapid processes, indicating the sediments were deposited rapidly and then covered quickly. Third, the excellent preservation of the tracks indicates the substrate firmed quickly, likely due to the unusual composition of the water at the time. Fourth, the large extent of the sedimentary delta plain points to geographically high-energy, catastrophic deposition. Fifth, the lack of fossil diversity indicates an abnormal ecological environment consistent with a sorting process operating during the Flood. Sixth, the animal tracks provide a powerful classification criterion allowing the sediments to be assigned to specific periods of Biblical history. And finally, the reported geological range of animal tracks within the geological column highlights the need for specific examples in the Neogene to be analysed site by site to determine whether they were made during the rising-water stage of the Flood or post-Flood.

Related Articles

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. Thomson, T.J., and Droser, M.L., Swimming reptiles make their mark in the Early Triassic: Delayed ecologic recovery increased the preservation potential of vertebrate swim tracks, Geology. Published online ahead of print on 5 Feb. 2015. http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/early/2015/02/04/G36332.1 DOI: 10.1130/G36332.1 Return to text.
  2. Swimming reptiles make their mark in the Early Triassic, GSA Release No.15–10, 9 February 2015; http://www.geosociety.org/news/pr/2015/15-10.htm. Return to text.
  3. Romilio, A., Tucker, R.T., and Salisbury, S.W., Reevaluation of the Lark Quarry dinosaur tracksite (Late Albian–Cenomanian Winton Formation, Central-Western Queensland, Australia): No longer a stampede? Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33(1):102–120, January 2013; http://www.uq.edu.au/dinosaurs/documents/Romilio_et_al_2013.pdf. Return to text.
  4. Walker, T., The Great Artesian Basin, Australia, Journal of Creation 10(3):379–390, 1996. Return to text.
  5. For example, Japan Tsunami 2011. The condition of the water can be seen after about 6 minutes. Note that this video may not be suitable for young people and children due to the graphic nature of the images; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0YOXVlPUu4. Return to text.
  6. Walker, T., Sedimentary blankets: Visual evidence for vast continental flooding, Creation 32(4):50–51, 2010. Return to text.
  7. Snelling, A.A., Tasmania’s Fossil Bluff, Creation 7(3):6–10, 1985. Return to text.
  8. Walker, T.B., A Biblical geologic model; in: Walsh, R.E (Ed)., The 3rd International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 581–592, 1994. Return to text.
  9. Oard, M.J., The remarkable African Planation Surface, Journal of Creation 25(1):111–122, 2011. Return to text.
  10. Oard, M.J., The geological column is a general Flood order with many exceptions, Journal of Creation 24(2):78–82, 2010. Return to text.
  11. The Neogene includes the Miocene and Pliocene, which were previously part of the Tertiary (as shown on Figure 3). There is some disagreement on the definition of Neogene with some geologists also including the Pleistocene, as is the case here with Thomson and Droser. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
I. F., United Kingdom, 26 February 2015

Do you not think that the title of this article is disingenuous and shows disrespect to the authors of the Geology article? I have read their article and nowhere in it is there any reference to what CMI refers to Noah's flood, or the supposed world wide flood that forms part of the Genesis story. The authors clearly adhere to the received and widely supported view that the Earth is billions of years old, and that dinosaurs became extinct approximately 65 million years ago. Your title and take on this article is typical of the sorts of tactics, misunderstanding and ignorance of young earth creationists in general. I read a terrific book recently, "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman", an autobiography and anecdotes from one of the 20th century's greatest and most original thinkers and scientists, working in the field of quantum mechanics. The last chapter is the graduation speech he gave in 1974 at Caltech, in which he talks about "cargo cult science", and its dangers. Look it up. Young Earth creationism fits the description admirably.

Tas Walker responds

No Ian, the title is not disingenuous nor does it show disrespect to the authors. The detailed geological evidence they documented fits elegantly within what we would expect from Noah's Flood. The article actually shows respect for the authors' observational skills and documentation. However, the authors did not see how the evidence fitted with Noah's Flood because they do not believe it happened, so they are trying to shoehorn the evidence into the long-age framework. I would hope that you can see from the detailed discussion in the above article that the evidence does not fit the long-age scenario well.

Grace R., United States, 20 February 2015

I believe that these rising waters were not in Noah's time but possibly much earlier. The Bible says that the earth was void and waters covered the surface of the earth. Most scientists believe that there was another water shield in the atmosphere and there is also belief of the ice age that many Christians disregard. I believe all of these things fit along with Bible history. Maybe God first created the earth and it was beautiful and that is when there were dinosaurs on the surface. After Satan fell the earth was corrupted and the ice age happened, the waters might have been what the dinosaurs were swimming through at this point before Genesis 1:2 when God recreated the surface of the earth when only water was on it. Just a thought and was wondering if this theory has been explored. It might also account for the age of rocks etc, that the earth is older than we think but humankind has only been here recently. Thank you

Tas Walker responds

What you are describing has been called by various names, including the "gap theory" and the "ruin reconstruction theory". When you think through the implications on that idea you will find that it does not work. For example, you end up having death before sin, which destroys the gospel, and the cataclysmic destruction of the earth at Noah's time leaving no physical evidence. Search in our search box for the words in double quotes and you will find many articles. The comparison with Genesis 13 is a good place to start, and following up with the "Related articles" and "Further reading" cited at the bottom.

Rafael R., Mexico, 19 February 2015

Out of curiosity what would be our reasoning for not finding other large animal track like these mixed in with Dinosaurs? Example mammoth, or the giant rhinos?

If the evolutionist says there was a mass extinction why is there a large diversity of dinosaur tracks?

Tas Walker responds

Factors could be 1) the environments where the animals lived and 2) their behaviour/ability-to-survive in floodwater.

Michael G., Norway, 19 February 2015

I apologise if this has been answered already, feel free to ignore if so and i will keep looking. It seems that there are a rapidly increasing number of dinosaurs that have perished in 'local' flood catastrophes. I was wondering if any work had been done to join the dots, so to speak. The idea being that a global occurence of 'local' floods in the same timeframe would strengthen the idea of a global flood. It also surprises me (although it probably shouldn't) on a planet 70 percent under water, with ample evidence of mass dinosaur drownings, that none of the major theories of dino extinction is a global or near global flooding event. Anything to avoid giving the slightest bit of credence to the bible i suppose...

Tas Walker responds

That is a good idea.

It's the uniformitarian time-scale with its hundreds of millions, indeed billions, of years that prevents then seeing the global Flood as one event.

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