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Creation 26(2):26–27, March 2004

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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.

Salamanders are ‘living fossils’!


Salamanders are still salamanders—why no change in (supposedly!) 160 million years?
Credit: John Clare, www.caudat.org

You’ve heard of ‘living fossils’? These are usually announced (often with much media fanfare) when something known only from the fossil record, long presumed extinct for millions of years, is unexpectedly found living somewhere. Examples of such living fossils include the coelacanth fish, the Wollemi pine tree (see Missing? or misinterpreted?), and the ‘Gladiator’ insect.1

But the latest animal to be pronounced a living fossil is one that has been familiar to generations of people for as long as anyone can remember; namely, the salamander.

So how can something long known to be living, suddenly be dubbed a ‘living fossil’?

Salamanders have always been salamanders.

The circumstances behind this, and the rationale for it, are described in a scientific paper in the journal Nature, by researchers who found fossils of juvenile and subadult salamanders in Inner Mongolia, China.2

The gist of the story is that these fossil specimens are from the Cryptobranchidae salamander family, which includes the modern-day Asian giant salamander (Andrias) and the North American hellbender (Cryptobranchus). Until this recent discovery, the earliest cryptobranchid salamander fossils were dated by evolutionists to around 60 million years ago, but these salamander fossils from Inner Mongolia are said to predate them ‘by a remarkable 100 million years’.3 And, with an assigned age of 161 million years, ‘the new cryptobranchid shows extraordinary morphological similarity to its living relatives’, which ‘underscores the stasis within salamander anatomical evolution’.2 Stasis means ‘a period or state of inactivity or equilibrium’.4 However, major evolution should have happened in 160 million years! That’s why the researchers conclude that cryptobranchid salamanders alive today ‘can be regarded as living fossils’.

Now that’s strong evidence for the biblical account of creation—living things were created to reproduce ‘after their kind’, i.e. salamanders have always been salamanders, which explains why living and fossil forms are identical.

One particular juvenile specimen shows such ‘remarkable preservation’ that even the amphibian’s eye, external gill filaments, tail keel and tail seam can be clearly seen.

But what about the ‘millions-of-years’ date assigned to the fossils; surely those ages are not consistent with the Bible? Indeed, they are not. For one thing, the universe is only around 6,000 years old according to the Scriptures, and secondly, there was no death of animals or man before Adam sinned, so these fossilized creatures must have died after that time, not before.

So how did the researchers come up with a date of 161 million years? They explained: ‘The assessment of the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian) age of the fossil beds is based on biostratigraphic analysis of insect and vertebrate assemblages.’2 This means that they assume that other fossils buried in these rock layers lived back then; therefore, so did the salamanders!

From a biblical perspective, we would say that these deposits were laid down during the global Flood, around 4,500 years ago. So the order in which organisms appear in the fossil record is not the order in which they supposedly evolved, but the order in which they were buried. And when we have a closer look at the actual evidence, it certainly fits a scenario of catastrophic burial.

Click for larger image

Consider this: the researchers didn’t find just one or two salamander fossils. Said one, ‘What excites us is that we’re not only seeing the earliest known salamanders in the fossil record, but we’ve thousands of them.’ Note: thousands! He continued, ‘There are whole bodies, impressions of soft tissue preserved, and stomach contents.’5 Note: soft tissue and stomach contents!

Such fantastic preservation fits with having been smothered by fast-moving water-borne sediment (Genesis 7:11). This buried them deeply enough that scavengers couldn’t eat them. Nor could they decay, because of restricted oxygen supply. One particular juvenile specimen described by the researchers shows such ‘remarkable preservation’ that even the amphibian’s eye, external gill filaments, tail keel and tail seam can be clearly seen. Take a look at the photo—you can even see the folds in its tail! And the stomach bulging with clams shows that the normal digestive processes were obviously arrested quickly—evidence of rapid burial and death.

To summarize, while evolutionists misinterpret layers of sediment as evidence for millions of years, the evidence actually supports the biblical account:

  • Identical living and fossil forms—no evolution!
  • ‘Remarkable preservation’—consistent with catastrophic burial in the Flood!

So, salamanders now officially join a long list of ‘living fossils’. I wonder which animal (or plant) will be next?

Posted on homepage: 13 November 2013


  1. See Living fossils enigma, Creation 22(2):56, 2000; Sensational Australian tree … like finding a live dinosaur, Creation 17(2):13, 1995; Wollemi pine trees bafflingly identical, Creation 23(1):6, 2000; Gladiator an extinct insect is found alive, Creation 25(2):51–52, 2003. Return to text.
  2. Gao, K.-Q. and Shubin, N.H., Earliest known crown-group salamanders, Nature 422(6930):424–428, 2003. Return to text.
  3. Living fossils, Nature 422(6930):vii–ix, 2003. Return to text.
  4. The New Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, p. 1816, 1998. Return to text.
  5. Amos, J., Earliest salamanders discovered, BBC News, <news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2896407.stm>, 31 March 2003. Return to text.

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