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Creation 42(2):18–19, April 2020

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The giant that shouldn’t be

This huge dicynodont means evolutionary history needs revising—again!


Light gray bones represent missing elements. Credit: Sulej and Niedźwiedzki, ref. 2.

According to the traditional story told by evolutionists, the supposed precursors to mammals, sometimes called mammal-like reptiles, were diminutive and insignificant creatures. (This was during the late Triassic—237 to 201 million years ago in their dating scheme.) Palaeontologist Dr Stephen Brusatte says these “retreated to the shadows while dinosaurs rose up and grew to huge sizes. That’s the story I tell my students in my lectures. But this throws a wrench into that simple tale.”1

The wrench Brusatte refers to is the discovery in Poland of Lisowicia bojani,2 an elephant-sized member of the dicynodonts, one of the groups of these so-called mammal-like reptiles.3 It reached an estimated length of more than 4.5 metres (15 feet) and a height of over 2.5 m (8 ft). The original paper estimated its body mass to be over 9 tonnes, but a later paper revised this downwards to 6 tonnes.4 This is about the same size as male African bush elephants, the largest living land animals.

In evolutionary terms, this giant is the largest non-dinosaurian tetrapod (four-legged creature) found in rock layers labelled as ‘late Triassic’, and simply shouldn’t be there.

What was found?

The bones of at least three L. bojani were located in a fossil-bearing bed about three metres thick situated in the Lipie Śląskie clay-pit at Lisowice village, in southern Poland. Researchers concluded from the ossification of the bones that they represented either sub-adult or adult individuals.

In the same bone-bearing layer there were also sharks, insects, pterosaurs, dinosaurs, fish, and plants. These demonstrate the deposition together of numerous ecozones in the turbulent waters during the Noahic Flood some 4,500 years ago.

Illustration by Dmitry Bogdanov

What is a dicynodont?

Dicynodonts are a now-extinct group of herbivores previously thought to range between a rat and ox in size. They were named by Sir Richard Owen (1804–1892), who also coined the word ‘dinosaur’. Dicynodont means ‘two dog teeth’, which refers to the two tusks the animals had coming down from the upper half of their beak-like jaws.

While dicynodonts are well known from bones in Africa, Asia, America, and even Antarctica, this new Polish discovery is the first time such a complete specimen has been found in rocks in Europe.

Size changes everything

Due to its size, the researchers didn’t initially identify it as a dicynodont; their first idea was that it was a sauropod dinosaur. However, after realising what they had, Dr Tomasz Sulej, one of the paper’s authors, said, “This discovery changes our ideas about the latest history of dicynodonts. It also raises far more questions about what really made them and dinosaurs so large.”5

Co-author Dr Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki added, “It’s natural to want to know how dicynodonts became so large. Lisowicia bojani is hugely exciting because it blows holes in many of our classic ideas of Triassic ‘mammal-like reptiles’.”

This issue of how gigantism arose in dicynodonts, just like in dinosaurs, is a puzzle for evolutionists. For smaller animals to become so large would require changing their centre of mass and skeletal muscle structure.

The discovery also overturns the long-held story that the only giant herbivores in the late Triassic were sauropod dinosaurs. The reason it puts a fly in the ointment is as follows: dicynodonts are part of a larger group called therapsids, which includes both mammals (including humans) and their alleged ancestors. During this imagined period, the earlier part of the so-called ‘age of dinosaurs’, therapsids were supposed to be decreasing in size and eventually evolving into small shrew-sized mammals. Lisowicia bojani is a huge problem as it bucks this trend, going ‘gigantically’ in the opposite direction.

Constant adjustments needed

This is the problem for evolutionists who are essentially making up the past. One single fossil can change their entire story. This has happened on many occasions such as this and led to either partial or total rewrites. In relation to this find, Dr Niedźwiedzki asked, “How many surprises are still waiting for us in the rocks?”

The Bible’s history, passed down from those who were there, has never needed to be rewritten due to finding any historical artefact. Gigantism in any part of the fossil record does not come as a surprise. Dicynodonts, apparently abundant creatures before the Flood, were created by God on Day 6 of Creation Week with the genetic potential for their respective size ranges. Those we find as fossils were buried in the Noahic Flood, a testimony to the huge forces and rapid burial involved in preserving such large creatures. Those that descended from the pairs on the Ark became extinct at some unspecified later date.

Posted on homepage: 1 March 2021

References and notes

  1. Vogel, G., Giant mammal cousin rivaled early dinosaurs, Science 362:879, 2018. Return to text.
  2. Sulej, T., and Niedźwiedzki, G., An elephant-sized Late Triassic synapsid with erect limbs, Science 363:78–80, 2019. Return to text.
  3. For discussion refuting the idea of an evolutionary progression within this broad term, see: Woodmorappe, J., Mammal-like reptiles: major trait reversals and discontinuities, J. Creation 15(1):44–52, 2001;creation.com/mammal-like. Return to text.
  4. Romano, M. and Manucci, F., Resizing Lisowicia bojani: volumetric body mass estimate and 3D reconstruction of the giant Late Triassic dicynodont, Historical Biology, published online 14 Jun 2019. Return to text.
  5. De Lazaro, E., Elephant-sized dicynodont from Triassic period discovered: Lisowicia bojani,sci-news.com , 27 Nov 2018. Return to text.

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