Also Available in:
This article is from
Creation 25(2):51–53, March 2003

Browse our latest digital issue Subscribe
Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

Gladiator—an ‘extinct’ insect is found alive


Extraordinarily, insects earlier thought to have been extinct for millions of years have been found thriving on a stony mountain top in Namibia.1,2

Nicknamed ‘Gladiators’ because of their ‘fearsome’ appearance and the armour that covers them as nymphs, the insects were first noted from specimens fossilized in amber (preserved transparent tree resin), ‘dated’ at 45 million years.3,4,5,6

News reports described the find as ‘totally unexpected,’ likening it to the discoveries of the Coelacanth, a ‘prehistoric’ fish thought to have died out with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and the Wollemi Pine, ‘the dinosaur tree,’ previously known only from fossils dated at 150 million years.1,7 Science journal said connecting the fossil to today’s insects ‘was like unearthing long-hidden treasure,’ and related one entomologist’s excitement: ‘How often do you get to investigate a fossil that has come to life?’8

Evolutionists’ surprise at finding such ‘living fossils’ is understandable, given the enormous (‘millions-of-years’) intervals of time supposed to have elapsed since the specimens were fossilized. But creationists understand that these fossils are likely to date from the global Flood, only about 4,500 years ago, so are not surprised when such creatures are found to be still living.9

Amber fossils exist all over the world, containing not only insects10,11 but ‘just about everything from mosses and flowers, through to parasitic worms, snails and a huge diversity of arthropods, to lizards, bird feathers and mammal hair,’12,13 and even marine or intertidal organisms such as barnacles and oysters.14

Wikimedia commons/P.E. Bragg

While no-one is certain exactly how amber (fossilized tree resin) fossils, found right around the world, were formed,15 there are indications that unusual conditions prevailed when they were preserved. Such conditions can be explained by the Biblical Flood (see The Amber Mystery below). Likewise, Coelacanth and Wollemi Pine fossils are evidence of global catastrophe, because they were evidently smothered quickly under multiple layers of sediment, vast in extent.

So the next time you hear a news report like the ‘Gladiator’ story, of some ‘extinct’ insect or other creature being found to be alive and well, remember that this is actually much more consistent with the Bible than with prevailing secular belief in evolution and millions of years. Hundreds of examples of such ‘living fossils’ strongly suggest that the alleged ‘millions of years’ are mythical. It also indicates that no matter how long the time that has passed, no evolution has taken place. Rather, the so-called ‘living fossil’ has been happily reproducing ‘after its kind,’ just as the Bible says it was designed to do (10 times in Genesis 1).

The amber mystery

Although amber is universally accepted to be fossil tree resin, no-one knows what forces cause tree resin to harden into amber, and no-one has yet been able to synthesize it artificially.16 It is also uncertain how organisms are preserved so perfectly inside hardened amber. Evolutionists concede that ‘many interesting problems remain concerning the age of [amber] deposits and their exact origin,’17 but they nevertheless assume that millions of years were needed.18,19,20

No Evolutionary Change
The compound eyes of a fly preserved in amber. Mystery still surrounds the exact process by which stunning specimens such as this come to exist.


No Evolutionary Change

The compound eyes of a fly preserved in amber. Mystery still surrounds the exact process by which stunning specimens such as this come to exist.

However, some experts have long thought that amber fossils could have only come about through a worldwide flood. When describing the famous Baltic amber deposits, N. Heribert-Nilsson, former professor of botany, Lund University, Sweden, and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, wrote: ‘The geological and paleobiological facts concerning the layers of amber are impossible to understand unless the explanation is accepted that they are the result of an allochthonous process, including the whole earth.’21 [Ed. note: allochthonous refers to transport from other locations (from Greek allos, other; chthon, ground), i.e. by powerful water flow—flood. The opposite is autochthonous, i.e. coming from the same place without any need for transport, from Greek autos, self.]

Even experts with a millions-of-years geological perspective acknowledge that ‘appropriate burial conditions’ were necessary for amber formation. To explain why amber deposits are often associated with brown coal (lignite), they surmise that ‘copious resin-producing trees’ were transported by water, then: ‘Wood and resin are buried under the sediment and while the resin becomes amber, the wood becomes lignite. Wet sediments of clay and sand preserve the resin well because they are devoid of oxygen.’20 Large numbers of trees felled, transported, then buried implies lots of floodwater! Also, heat is said to have been a likely factor in promoting resin flow from wood.18

Perhaps the Flood waters—heated in places by the ‘fountains of the great deep’ (Genesis 7:11)—provided ideal conditions for large quantities of liquid amber to ooze from mats of floating logs, enveloping insects and other flood debris before hardening.22 

Posted on homepage: 8 May 2013

References and notes

  1. ‘Extinct’ insect found on peak, Sydney Daily Telegraph, p. 34, 22 March 2002. Return to text.
  2. The find triggered the description of a new taxonomic order, Mantophasmatodea, to accommodate both the living species and the amber fossils (previously unidentified), bringing the number of insect orders to 31. Klass, K.-D., Zompro, O., Kristensen, N.P. and Adis, J., Mantophasmatodea: A new insect order with extant members in the Afrotropics, Science 296(5572):1456–1459, 2002. Return to text.
  3. Adis, J., Zompro, O., Moombolah-Goagoses, E. and Marais, E., Gladiators: A new order of insect, Scientific American 287(5):42–47, 2002. Return to text.
  4. After studying the amber fossils, entomologist Oliver Zompro checked museums worldwide for similar specimens. Two insects collected in Tanzania and Namibia last century appeared related to the amber fossils, suggesting that the insect was not extinct. In 2002, Zompro and others found a dozen live ‘gladiator’ insects by painstakingly searching through grass clumps in Namibia’s Brandberg Mountains. It was subsequently realized that international scientific expeditions to the area in 1998 and 2000 had already found specimens, but had not identified them. Max Planck Doctoral Student discovers ‘living fossils’, Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, mpg.de, 3 May 2002. Return to text.
  5. Their placement in a new insect order has been questioned by some entomologists, but others respond that they do not fit into any other order. Mantophasmatodea: A new insect order?, Science 297(5582):731, 2002. Return to text.
  6. Usage of the common name ‘Gladiator’ has been somewhat ambiguous. The entomologists who identified and placed the insects in the new order Mantophasmatodea seem to have originally applied the term to embrace all species in the new grouping (Ref. 3). Some later reports say ‘Gladiator’ is only applied to the Brandberg Mountain species, with its somewhat spiny nymphs, and not to other living representatives of Mantophasmatodea found elsewhere (Ref. 9), which, like the fossils in amber, were less spiny. Theron, H., Entomologists amazed by new insect order from Namaqualand, 6 January 2003, scienceinafrica.co.za; Order: Mantophasmatodea (mantos), 6 January 2003, museums.org.za. Return to text.
  7. The Wollemi Pine of the insect world, ABC News in Science, abc.net.au, 17 Oct. 2002. Return to text.
  8. Pennisi, E., New insect order speaks to life’s diversity, Science 296(5567):445–447, 2002. Return to text.
  9. Since the Namibia discovery, living representatives of Mantophasmatodea have been found in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. Picker, M.D., Colville, J.F., van Noort, S., Mantophasmatodea now in South Africa, Science 297(5586):1475, 2002. Return to text.
  10. Grimaldi, D.A., Captured in Amber, Scientific American 274(4):70–77, 1996. Return to text.
  11. Poinar, G.O., Singer, R., Upper Eocene Gilled Mushroom from the Dominican Republic, Science 248(4959):1099–1101, 1990. Return to text.
  12. Palmer, D., Golden opportunity, New Scientist 175(2355):48, 2002. Return to text.
  13. For lizards, see: The Gecko, 13 November 2002, collectorscorner.com.au; Lizard recently discovered in Baltic amber, 13 November 2002, 3dotstudio.com. Return to text.
  14. Santiago-Blay, J.A., Part of a possible brackish community preserved in Chiapas amber, 13 November 2002, gsa.confex.com. Return to text.
  15. Langenheim, J.H., Amber: A botanical inquiry, Science 163(3872):1157–1169, 1969. Return to text.
  16. Amber, library.thinkquest.org, 16 October 2002. Return to text.
  17. Palmer, D., Golden opportunity, New Scientist 175(2355):48, 2002. Return to text.
  18. Insects in amber, ub.es, 2 December 2002. Return to text.
  19. Amber in Latvia, latinst.lv, 16 October 2002. Return to text.
  20. What is amber?, academic.emporia.edu, 16 October 2002. Return to text.
  21. Translated from the original German on p. 1194 of the book Synthetische Artbildung, cited in Creation 1(2):5, 1978. Return to text.
  22. After heavy tropical rain, abundant rain-drowned insects often cover the bottom of pools, and/or float near the surface. As amber’s specific gravity is slightly over one, it floats in saltwater but sinks in fresh water, leaving the possibility that material preserved in amber was either flotsam or settlings, or perhaps both (specific gravity is the density of a substance relative to pure water, which therefore has SG = 1 by definition). Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Living Fossils book
by Dr Carl Werner
US $37.00
Hard cover
Exploring Geology with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck
US $11.00
Hard cover
Thousands ... Not Billions
by Dr Don DeYoung
US $14.00
Soft cover