‘Oldest’ fossil shrimp?
Researchers have recently found what has been dubbed the oldest known fossil shrimp. Found in Upper Devonian shale in Oklahoma, the specimen of Aciculopoda mapesi was exceptionally preserved: “the muscles … have been preserved completely enough that discrete muscle bands are discernable.”1
The news reports commented that “The fossil is a very important step in unraveling the evolution of decapods.”2
However, one looks in vain in either the popular reports or the original research to find justification for this statement.
Extension of fossil ranges
Does the claimed age of the fossil tell us something new about the evolution of decapods? The more we investigate the fossil record, the larger fossil ranges tend to get.3 Aciculopoda adds to this trend by extending the known fossil range of shrimps and prawns from the early Triassic (‘dated’ by uniformitarians to 245 Ma) to late Devonian (360 Ma), completely skipping the Carboniferous and Permian geologic ‘ages’. This is a 115-million-year extension in fossil range on the basis of one fossil! This is one more, particularly extreme, example of a progressive randomization of the fossil record.
The classification of strata in the geologic column depends on index fossils, which are supposed to only occur over short spans in the rocks, and thus enable researchers to globally correlate strata. However, if fossils as a rule continually have their stratigraphic ranges extended, how reliable can the geologic column concept be since it relies on index fossils?4
Not only does Aciculopoda resemble ‘younger’ fossil shrimp, it closely resembles modern shrimp (figure 1). So shrimp are not only older than was thought, but they’ve stayed the same much longer. This is one more case of “evolutionary stasis”, which is a contradiction in terms that mean “change that stays the same”. As such, “evolutionary stasis” is a meaningless concept; you can convey the meaning properly by simply calling it stasis. However, evolutionists often feel the need to add “evolutionary” to make sure the public gets the impression that stasis, like every other conceivable pattern in the fossils, can be ‘explained’ with an evolutionary story. And since evolution can apparently explain anything, it ultimately explains nothing.5 “Evolutionary stasis” is nothing more than a meaningless nod to a meaningless concept to accommodate an evolution-contrary pattern in the fossils. Things staying the same is not evolution.
Fine preservation evidence for rapid burial
Lead researcher Rodney Feldmann pointed out that the exceptional preservation of the muscles in the fossil points to rapid burial: “When the animal died, it came to rest on the seafloor. The muscles then were preserved by a combination of acidic waters and a low oxygen content as the animal was buried rapidly.”2 In order to preserve the muscles, they had to be permineralized quickly: “Under conditions of low pH and anoxia, it has been estimated that phosphatization of the soft tissue will occur within a few weeks.”1 Rapid burial and permineralization is completely consistent with a Flood setting.
Evolutionary spin of the fossils
Nevertheless, the news story proclaims: “The fossil is a very important step in unraveling the evolution of decapods.”2 This is mere spin—the fossil tells us nothing about how shrimp or decapods evolved because it’s little different from modern shrimp. Decapods were already ‘dated’ as far back as the Devonian, just not shrimp. So this fossil has neither changed the age range of decapods, nor told us anything about the supposed changes the ancestral decapod went through to become a shrimp. Shrimp are simply older than originally thought.
Fossils make for good stories, but they’re not much help for evolution. Paleontology by itself can’t conclusively demonstrate whether creation or evolution is true. Historical interpretation of the fossil record, like long-age dating, is notoriously subjective. Fossil patterns can’t give a history; that is imposed on the evidence.6 However, we can say that these fossils are consistent with rapid burial during the biblical Flood.
- Feldmann, R.M. and Schweitzer, C.E., The oldest shrimp (Devonian: Famennian) and remarkable preservation of soft tissue, Journal of Crustacean Biology 30(4):629–635, 2010. Return to text.
- Oldest fossil shrimp preserved with muscles, PhysOrg.com, 9 November 2010 (accessed 15 November 2010). Return to text.
- Woodmorappe, J., The fossil record: becoming more random all the time, Journal of Creation (CENTJ) 14(1):110–116, 2000. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., How well do paleontologists know fossil distributions? Journal of Creation (CENTJ) 14(1):7–8, 2000. Return to text.
- It’s not that evolution does explain all the fossil patterns, but that evolution’s practitioners think it can. So it is just a matter of thinking of a scenario that seems to explain each observation. But these scenarios are often contradictory. The flexibility of the just-so story telling makes evolution effectively unfalsifiable. Return to text.
- Reed, J.K., Cuvier’s analogy and its consequences: forensics vs testimony as historical evidence, Journal of Creation 22(3):115–120, 2008. Return to text.