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Creation 33(2):54–55, April 2011

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Natural rafts carried animals around the globe

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©istockphoto.com/mattscholey

According to the Bible, the only nostril-breathing, land-dwelling animals that survived the Genesis Flood were those on board Noah’s Ark. This means, that all the land vertebrates alive on the earth today must be descended from the offspring of the Ark travellers. Moreover, these must have migrated to their current habitats from the place where the Ark finally came to rest, somewhere on the mountains of Ararat, in the Middle East. Various theories have been put forward to explain how this could have happened, some of which seem quite plausible, such as migration across land bridges, which have now fallen below sea level, and transportation by humans.

Another explanation which is gaining increasing support is the rafting hypothesis.

Interestingly, the potential for dispersal of plants and animals across large stretches of water by natural rafts has been accepted by evolutionists for many years. Professor Paul Moody of the University of Vermont argued,

Steve Murray
Iguanas colonised Anguilla in the West Indies on rafts.

“In times of flood, large masses of earth and entwining vegetation, including trees, may be torn loose from the banks of rivers and swept out to sea. Sometimes such masses are encountered floating in the ocean out of sight of land, still lush and green, with palms, twenty to thirty feet [7 to 10 m] tall. It is entirely probable that land animals may be transported long distances in this manner. Mayr records that many tropical ocean currents have a speed of at least two knots; this would amount to fifty miles [80 km] a day, 1000 miles [1600 km] in three weeks.”1

More recently, the rafting idea has been advanced by evolutionists to explain the presence of the Bear Cuscus (Ailurops ursinus) and the Dwarf Cuscus (Strigocuscus celebensis) on the island of Sulawesi2 and of lemurs on the island of Madagascar.3 In 1995, fishermen witnessed the colonisation of the island of Anguilla in the West Indies by iguanas. These were washed up on one of the island’s eastern beaches, having floated there on a mat of logs and uprooted trees, a few weeks after two hurricanes hit the islands of the Lesser Antilles. Scientists believed that the iguanas had rafted 320 km from Guadeloupe.4,5

Significantly, biogeographers sometimes refer to oceans rather than continents as the main biogeographic regions. This is because, very often, patterns are seen, where many terrestrial organisms are distributed around the land bordering an ocean. So clear was this to the twentieth century biogeographer, Léon Croizat, that he spent much time drawing “tracks” to chart repetitious occurrences of these patterns.6,7 The track for Oreobolus plants, for example, is shown in fig. 1, and it is one that is shared with a multitude of other plants and animals.8,9

Fig 1
Fig 1. Tracks showing occurrence of Oreobolus plants around Pacific Ocean.

The destructive power of large volumes of fast-flowing water is enormous and, in the early stages of the Genesis Flood, would have been sufficient to rip-up large amounts of woodland. Although some of this would have been buried in sediments, many billions of trees would have been left floating on the surface of the waters, as enormous ‘log mats’.

These islands of vegetation, regularly watered by rainfall, could have easily supported plant and animal life over significant periods of time. Ocean currents would have moved these massive ‘rafts’ around the globe, sometimes washing them up beside land, where animals and insects might ‘embark’ or ‘disembark’, and then transporting them back out to sea. I’m not suggesting that land animals survived the Genesis Flood on rafts. Rather, these rafts would have facilitated their dispersal after the Flood, as they multiplied and migrated away from the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4).

The ability of ocean currents to distribute floating objects around the world was seen recently, when thousands of bathtub rubber ducks were lost off a container ship in the North Pacific in 1992. In less than three months, these had floated to Indonesia, Australia and South America, and subsequently into the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.10,11

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Interestingly, the patterns of plant and animal distribution throughout the world are not random, as might be expected from evolutionary theory. Instead, we often find many different species clustered in what biogeographers describe as “areas of endemism”—where many different plants and animals are concentrated in the same distinct and often small regions.

Moreover, and most significantly, the areas of high plant endemism generally correspond to areas of high animal endemism.12,13 This, together with the fact that there are often many floral and faunal similarities between areas of endemism14, provides strong support for the idea that the plants and animals were transported to these places—and by the same means.

Further support for the rafting theory was provided by researchers at Bryan College, Tennessee, who showed that the intersections of ocean currents with land masses appear to correspond with the areas of endemism found throughout the world.15

Explaining patterns of biogeography is difficult because the events in question all occurred many years outside of living memory. Creation scientists, however, have an advantage over other scientists, as the Bible provides a historical framework which can guide their thinking. And, as with other areas of creation research, the field data is increasingly seen to fit the biblical model better than the evolutionary model.

References and notes

  1. Moody, P., Introduction to Evolution, Harper & Brothers, New York, USA, p. 262, 1953. Return to text.
  2. Heinsohn, T., A Giant Among Possums, Nature Australia 26(12):24–31, Autumn 2001. Return to text.
  3. Tattersal, I., Madagascar’s Lemurs, Scientific American, p. 90, January 1993; Hitch-hiking lemurs, Creation 15(4):11, 1993. Return to text.
  4. Censky, E. et al., Over-Water Dispersal of Lizards due to Hurricanes, Nature 395:556, 8 October 1998; Surfing lizards wipe out objections, Creation 21(2):7–9, 1999. Return to text.
  5. Yoon, C., Hapless Iguanas Float Away and Voyage Grips Biologists, The New York Times, 13 March 2008, www.nytimes.com. Return to text.
  6. Humphries, C.J. and Parenti, L.R., Cladistic Biogeography: Interpreting Patterns of Plant and Animal Distributions, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2nd ed., pp. 33–37, 138, 1999. Return to text.
  7. Croizat, L., Panbiogeography, vol. 1, 2A and 2B, self-published, 1958. Return to text.
  8. Seberg, O., Taxonomy, Phylogeny, and Biogeography of the Genus Oreobolus R.Br. (Cyperaceae), With Comments on the Biogeography of the South Pacific Continents. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 96: 119–195, 1988. Return to text.
  9. Buffalo Museum of Science, Vicariance Biogeography and Panbiogeography of the Plant Genus Oreobolus (Cyperaceae): A Comparison of Methods and Results. New York, USA. www.sciencebuff.org/panbiogeography_of_oreobolus.php. Return to text.
  10. Ford, P., Drifting Rubber Duckies Chart Oceans of Plastic. Christian Science Monitor, 31 July 2003. www.csmonitor.com. Return to text.
  11. Clerkin, B., Thousands of Rubber Ducks to Land on British Shores After 15 Year Journey. Daily Mail, 27 June 2007. www.dailymail.co.uk. Return to text.
  12. Nelson, G. and Platnick, N., Systematics and Biogeography: Cladistics and Vicariance, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 368, 524, 1981. Return to text.
  13. Cox, C.B., The Biogeographic Regions Reconsidered. Journal of Biogeography, 28:4 511–523, 2001. www.blackwell-synergy.com. Return to text.
  14. Ref. 6, preface and pp. 21,34, 87. Return to text.
  15. Wise, K.P. and Croxton, M., Rafting: A Post-Flood Biogeographic Dispersal Mechanism,. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pennsylvania, pp. 465–477, USA, 2003. Return to text.

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