Seeing the pattern


We wanted to feature the stunning photograph of the antlion fossil here, but unfortunately were refused permission by the copyright owner of that photograph. (Details of where the photo was originally published are provided in Refs 1 & 2.)

Knowing a bit about major events in history sure helps to make sense of things we observe in the world around us. But if we’re ignorant of such events, we can miss seeing even the obvious.

An article in New Scientist provides a classic example.1 Under the headline ‘Antlion fossil has perfect patterns’, it reported the discovery in Brazil of a stunningly well-preserved fossil of a carnivorous insect, ‘dated’ at between 125 and 112 million years ago. It was so well preserved in fact that even the colour pattern on its wings is visible.

It’s not the first time that insect fossils with preserved colour patterns have been found in that location. ‘But it is rare to find the pattern preserved in such clarity’, said one of the researchers, Sam Heads,2 of the University of Manchester (UK). ‘The wings are oriented in such a way as allows us to reconstruct the pattern on both wings as it would have appeared in life.’

So how was it that this insect was so well preserved? New Scientist muses: ‘Quite how colour patterns are preserved is a mystery, but rapid burial and oxygen-free conditions are thought to be important.’

Here’s where knowing the real history of the world comes to the fore. Anyone who knows about the global Flood that occurred around 4,500 years ago (Genesis 6–9) has a ready explanation for ‘rapid burial’ and ‘oxygen-free conditions’.3,4 And the legacy of such a global Flood would, not surprisingly, be worldwide, which explains why fossils are found not just in Brazil but in sedimentary rocks around the world, even in what are now the highest mountain ranges. Creation magazine has long featured photographs of many other ‘stunningly preserved’ fossils—evidence of a global pattern of multitudes of organisms undergoing quick burial, putting their bodies out of reach of scavengers and also in many cases restricting oxygen thus impeding decay.

For example, from France a fish buried at the exact moment of swallowing its lunch (a smaller fish);5 from Canada an arthropod preserved at the moment of moulting;6,7 from Upper Mongolia a juvenile salamander so beautifully preserved that not only are the folds in its tail visible but also its external gill filaments;8,9 jellyfish in Australia10 and many more in Wisconsin (USA)11—something that Charles Darwin, from his evolutionary long-ages framework of thinking, said would be impossible.12

Evolution’s ‘pattern’ upset

As well as the long-age framework’s struggle to explain the ‘mystery’ of how insect colour patterns are preserved, the evolutionary millions-of-years dating of fossils leaves evolutionists with another problem. As New Scientist put it:

‘Modern antlions are best known for their larvae’s habit of trapping and devouring ants by concealing themselves at the bottom of small pits. But since ants evolved some 10 million years after this antlion died, the hungry young insect must have feasted on something else.’

This is not the first time that evolutionists have to face an evolutionary ‘cart-before-the-horse’ problem, so to speak. For example, paleobotanists had long thought that grasses were not common until long after the dinosaurs became extinct (supposedly 65 million years ago). But recent analysis of fossilized dino dung shows that dinosaurs did indeed munch on grass—this was, as one researcher commented, ‘a complete shock’.13 And bird lice fossils have been ‘dated’ as pre-dating the bird species which they parasitize.14

But the antlion-before-ants and similar conundrums for evolutionists disappear when one can ‘see’ that beautifully-preserved fossils in sedimentary rock around the world do not fit the imagined millions-of-years evolutionary ‘pattern’, but are simply a legacy of rapid burial in the global Flood of 4,500 years ago and its aftermath.

In one sense, it is indeed surprising that evolutionists cannot yet ‘see’ it. They surely would keep abreast of news reports regarding each new fossil discovery—in fact, they are often asked by news reporters to provide comment on the ‘latest fossil evidence’—the very same fossil evidence that creationists happily report.

For example, creationists cited the discovery of soft tissue in T. rex and other dinosaur fossils for obvious reasons—such evidence speaks of recent preservation.15 But the difficulties this poses for evolution theory did not stop some evolutionists from excitedly speculating that it might be possible to extract DNA.16 Their excitement apparently overrode the evidence for the impossibility of any DNA remaining intact for the assumed 70 million years. But if the samples are only thousands of years old—as one would expect if the Bible is true—soft tissue preservation of dinosaur and other fossils is readily understandable.

An earlier instance of evolutionists’ own reports17,18 being picked up and cited by creationists19 concerns well-preserved fish fossils in Brazil. Under a scanning electron microscope, researchers could see that the fish (‘dated’ at 110 million years) were so exquisitely preserved that details of muscles, gill filaments, gut linings and blood vessels were visible. The preservation of these fossil fish was so rapid that the lamellae of the gills could be seen uncollapsed. Given that these structures will collapse in one to three hours when removed from fresh fish, preservation probably occurred within one hour.19 This is another surely-too-obvious example of what must have been rapid preservation, consistent with the biblical global Flood.

Antlion wing colour patterns; T. rex blood vessels; uncollapsed fish gill lamellae—how much evidence does one need? Perhaps it comes down to one’s willingness to ‘see’.20 Maybe it’s only then that the pattern is obvious.

Published: 29 December 2006

References and notes

  1. Colour pattern on insect’s wings preserved in fossil, newscientist.com, New Scientist 188(2530):19, 17 December 2005. Return to text
  2. The New Scientist article was based on a Palaeontology journal paper published by Heads and his co-researchers. Heads, S.W, Martill, D.M. and Loveridge, R.F., An exceptionally preserved antlion (Insecta, Neuroptera) with colour pattern preservation from the Cretaceous of Brazil, Palaeontology 48(6): 1409–1417, 2005. Return to text
  3. Garner, P., Green River Blues, Creation 19(3):18–19, 1997. Return to text
  4. Woolley, D., Fish preservation, fish coprolites and the Green River Formation, Journal of Creation 15(1):105–111, 2001. Return to text
  5. Fish Frozen In Time (An Ichthyological Jonah?), Creation 10(3):46, 1988. Return to text
  6. Garcia-Bellido, D.C. and Collins, D.H., Moulting arthropod caught in the act, Nature 429(6987):40, 2004. Return to text
  7. Catchpoole, D., Moulting arthropod fossilized in a flash! Creation 27(2):45, 2005. Return to text
  8. Gao, K.-Q. and Shubin, N.H., Earliest known crown-group salamanders, Nature 422(6930):424–428, 2003. Return to text
  9. Catchpoole, D., Salamanders are ‘living fossils’! Creation 26(2):26–27, 2004. Return to text
  10. Photograph (courtesy of South Australian Museum) of Mawsonites spriggi, a jellyfish preserved in the Ediacara fossil reserve, published in Creation 4(2):21,31, June 1981. Archived text, titled ‘Fossil Jellyfish in Australia’. Return to text
  11. Hagadorn, J.W., Dott, R.H. and Damrow, D., Stranded on a Late Cambrian shoreline: Medusae from central Wisconsin, Geology 30(2):147–150, 2002. Return to text
  12. Catchpoole, D., Hundreds of jellyfish fossils!, Creation 25(4):32–33, 2003. Return to text
  13. Hecht, J., Dino droppings reveal prehistoric taste for grass, New Scientist 188(2527):7, 26 November 2005. Return to text
  14. Catchpoole, D., A lousy story, Creation 28(3):54–55, 2006. Return to text
  15. Dino soft tissue find, Creation 27(4):7, 2006. Return to text
  16. Adam, D., T-rex could bring Jurassic Park to life—Scientists say dinosaur cloning possible from DNA, The Guardian, 25 March 2005, 26 April 2006. Return to text
  17. Martill, D., Preservation of fish in the Cretaceous Santana Formation of Brazil, Palaeontology 31:1–18, 1988. Return to text
  18. Martill, D., The Medusa effect: instantaneous fossilization, Geology Today, Nov.-Dec., pp. 201–205, 1989. Return to text
  19. Geoscience Reports, Spring 1991, No. 13, 14 February 2006. Return to text
  20. See, e.g., John 12:40, 2 Corinthians 4:4. Return to text

Helpful Resources

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