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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.

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.

Helpful Resources

The Fossil Record
by John D Morris, Frank J Sherwin
US $20.00
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The Greatest Hoax on Earth?
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $16.00
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Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
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Monumental Monsters
by Vance Nelson
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Readers’ comments

David P.
See the full story here in the New York Times ([link deleted per feedback rules]). It doesn't revise the evolutionary time scale at all. If you read the article you'll see that these giants lived more than 200 million years ago. These fossils found in 2019 in Poland lived a bit longer than most of their clan - some 10-15 million years - not as you dream up just 5000 years ago. What's 10 million against the scientifically proven age of the earth, 4.25 billion?
Phil Robinson
Thank you for carefully taking the time to respond to the points made in the article, and outline a full response to each one you are concerned with. Oh, wait, that’s not what happened at all. I am however genuinely pleased that you did come to creation.com and read the article. I hope that you will come back and read more. If you do you will see there are many articles clearly refuting the belief that the earth is billions of years old. Specifically in relation to this article, if you read it a bit more carefully you will see that it is evolutionists themselves who realise the importance of this discovery and how it has changed their timeline/story. This is why they are clearly referenced. I hope that by reading more in this website you will also come to see the authority and truth of Scripture, and the wonderful salvation offered through Jesus Christ.
Jacques A.
We must not forget that evolutionists are just like cats, they make many contorsions to always fall back on their feet…

What exactly is a "mammal like reptile"?… when they don't want to identify something, they use that kind of language. On the other hand they will tell you without ambiguity that birds are dinosaurs!!
Ken Z.
The evolution scientists - I think that’s an oxymoron and they remind me of the people in George Orwell’s 1984 who constantly miss their projections and then have to go back and re-create the history tapes which had announcements of what they were going to achieve but didn’t. The Bible tells us that the heart of unregenerate man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Stories like this will never cause the unregenerate man to admit his errors. Unless God regenerates him and gives him the gospel and gives him repentance he will continue in his deceit regardless of the mountain of evidence against him and his false science. You can back these so-called scientists into the corner, but they’re slippery as a greased pig. They will tell lies until the cows come home and then tell more. Their father is a murderer and a liar.
Phil Robinson
I agree that the evolutionary story is slippery and ever changing, having to consistently accommodate unexpected discoveries, meaning that the previous story was wrong. But we have to be careful lumping all evolutionists in as deliberate liars. They have chosen to work within a naturalistic evolutionary framework, and thus interpret the world around them within that framework. It is because their starting point is wrong that their conclusions are also wrong. But there is hope, found in Jesus. A number of the CMI writers, speakers, and staff were atheists, or theistic evolutionists at points in their life, before either being saved, or the Holy Spirit bringing giving them the wisdom to see the truth and importance of historic biblical creation as found in the book of Genesis, and referred to throughout Scripture.
Mark P.
You mentioned that only the white part of the picture was found while the light gray was not found. Perhaps not in response here but as a separate stand-alone article you could one day tell us layman what in fact was found in place? It would be illuminating to understand how disarticulated the skeletons were. Some of them had skin still attached so where would the missing bones and fragments go if the skin was still there? As Alf F. mentioned in his response above, that really is the Achilles heel of the evolutionary argument: that so much destruction and so many dissimilar ecosystems were present in one small area. My angle is that such a large 9 ton animal had some bones ripped from it while it was being deposited speaks to an incredible force that the evolutionists have yet to explain.
Thomas R.
I wonder if these animals will ever be discovered in frozen tundra up north. It wouldn’t be “out of place” in the evolutionary timeline, except that it would demonstrate “unusually long” absence from the fossil record, only to suddenly “re-appear”. It would essentially be like finding a dinosaur with mammoths and rhinos.
Alf F.
The fact that all those creatures both terrestrial and aquatic are found together, all fosillised with plants as a flood assemblage, that is what ought to give evolutionists pause for thought, and suggest a rewrite of their natural history paradigm. They remind one of the little boy who ate an onion because he had said it was an apple and now had to prove it. Now they must take another few bites, upscaling size expectations and inventing some new weight - hip joint theory.
John P.
These giant animals produce a giant puzzle for those who make up the past. There'd be no puzzle if they believed what God says but they choose to fullfill Bible prophesy by ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth and professing to be wise they become fools.

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