This article is from
Creation 24(2):55, March 2002

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Evolution’s oyster twist

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Photos: wikipedia.org Ostrea-Gryphaea
The oyster, Ostrea sp. (left), was said to have evolved over millions of years into the coiled shell Gryphaea sp.—also known as “the devil’s toenails” (right). But there’s a new ‘twist’ to the story—Gryphaea’s coiling has nothing to do with evolution.
Sadly, many Christians compromised with evolutionary ideas because of supposed ‘proofs’ like the flat-became-twisted oyster evolution story.

Oysters have the unfortunate distinction that they were one of the first examples of an alleged proof of evolutionary lineage in the fossil record (mooted by paleontologist A.E. Trueman in 1922).1 The ‘flat’ oyster, Ostrea sp., was said to have evolved into the coiled shell Gryphaea sp. Several generations of science students were taught this as ‘one of the best documented cases of evolution’ in the fossil record.

wikipedia.org Ostrea-edulis
Oysters have been cultivated for food for over 2,000 years. Edible oysters are ready for harvesting in three to five years.

However, today it seems that coiling is a built-in programming response to the environment, i.e. mud-sticking oysters grow into a coiled cup-shaped form, while oysters attaching to firmer substrate2 grow to be ‘flat, fan-shaped recliners’.3 So, coiling is an individual growth response to local environment; not a millions-of-years evolutionary twist.

Sadly, many Christians compromised with evolutionary ideas because of supposed ‘proofs’ like the flat-became-twisted oyster evolution story. The futility of twisting the truth of Scripture in order to accommodate the so-called ‘scientific facts’ of the day is highlighted when such ‘facts’ are repeatedly thrown out by evolutionists themselves:

Nearly all the evolutionary stories I learned as a student … have now been ‘debunked’.—Evolutionist geologist Derek Ager, “The nature of the fossil record”, 1976.
‘It must be significant that nearly all the evolutionary stories I learned as a student, from Trueman’s Ostrea/Gryphaea to Carruthers’ Zaphrentis delanouei, have now been “debunked”. Similarly, my own experinece [sic] of more than twenty years looking for evolutionary lineages among the Mesozoic Brachiopoda has proved them equally elusive.’ 4

Instead of trusting man’s changing theories, heralded as ‘fact’ today but discarded tomorrow, we can rely on the absolute truth of the unchanging Word of God.

References and notes

  1. Palaeo-Comment 38, , 30 November 2001. Return to text.
  2. For the first days of their life, young oysters swim freely, but then attach themselves permanently to a site. (They obtain their food—minute organic particles—by filtering the water.) Return to text.
  3. Machalski, M., Oyster life positions and shell beds from the Upper Jurassic of Poland, Acta palaeontologica Polonica 43(4):609–634, 1998. Abstract downloaded from , 30 November 2001. Return to text.
  4. Ager, D.V., The nature of the fossil record, Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 87(2):131–160, 1976. Return to text.

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