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Creation 38(2):16–17, April 2016

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‘Surprising’ lizards in amber



In 2007, evolutionary researchers made the significant discovery that resin flowing from hand-sawn cuts in swamp forest trees can entrap aquatic (and other) organisms in the swamp water.1,2 This should have been a turning point in regard to the ‘mystery’ of the origin of amber fossils.3 As we pointed out in Creation magazine at the time,4 the researchers’ observations, plus their surmising that amber fossils could have been preserved only by burial under layers of flood-borne sediment, dove-tailed beautifully with the biblical Flood (Genesis 6–9).

Thus, the catastrophic global Flood of Noah would have vastly multiplied the amount of resin available for entrapping organisms. Uprooted trees, smashing against each other in the swirling currents and waves, would have lost their bark and released copious quantities of tree resin. While still fluid, the resin would have enveloped both aquatic and terrestrial organisms displaced from their usual habitat by the floodwaters. (As New Scientist observed, resin in water is probably more of a hazard to insects than resin on tree bark.5) And recognizing that sedimentary rock layers and the embedded fossils therein date from the Flood of Noah’s day, i.e. only about 4,500 years ago, vaporizes evolutionary notions of millions of years.

Figure 1. Fossil anole lizards have been found preserved in amber on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Sherratt et al., 2015—Ref 7.) Some are exceptionally well preserved (A—C). X-ray micro-CT scanning reveals in 3D: complete skeletons (B), fully articulated skulls (C), and fragments. (D). The external surface of the lizard is sometimes outlined in the amber by air-filled voids, which, when reconstructed in 3D, reveal details of the body scales (D) and the subdigital lamellae (E, centre). Scale detail is also visible through the amber (E, left and right). See Ref. 7.

Unfortunately, however, the recent reporting of a research study on 38 fossil lizards in amber found on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola6,7 has not regarded this. Instead, coming from an evolutionary perspective that posits these amber fossils as being 20 million years old, the researchers were amazed and surprised to find exquisitely preserved anole lizards, which showed no evolution. For these reptilian specimens in amber are “identical to their modern cousins” and show “phenomenal detail—including the colour of the lizard … and whether its eyes were open or shut.”6 In the words of lead researcher Dr Emma Sherratt, of the University of New England, Australia:

Figure 2. Another example of the several dozen fossil lizards in amber from Hispaniola, ‘dated’ at 20 million years, but found to be identical to their modern counterparts. Why no evolution in all that (supposed) time? See Ref. 7.
“These fossils were really surprising because of how much detail they contained, allowing us to see how these lizards would have looked in real life. Most of ours had full skeletons, and details of the skin were impressed on the amber, providing very detailed images of tiny scales on the body and on the sticky toe pads. You could have taken a lizard today, embedded it in resin and it would have looked like one of these creatures. That’s how realistic and modern they look.”6

Sherratt describes such stasis (i.e. that these lizards haven’t changed evolutionarily in the mooted 20 million years “over which all the main animal types evolved”) as “very striking” and “quite surprising”.6

In contrast, Bible-believers might reasonably regard as very striking and quite surprising the fact that so many people apparently won’t consider that God created living things to reproduce “after their kind”, despite the abundant fossil and living evidence of this all around us, right in line with the Bible’s Creation and Flood timeline.

Posted on homepage: 30 October 2017

References and notes

  1. Schmidt, A.R., and Dilcher, D.L., Aquatic organisms as amber inclusions and examples from a modern swamp forest, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104(42):16581–16585, 16 October, 2007 | doi:10.1073/pnas.0707949104. Return to text.
  2. How amber becomes a death trap for watery creatures, sciencedaily.com, 20 October 2007. Return to text.
  3. Although amber has long been generally accepted as being fossil tree resin, scientists could only speculate/debate as to what forces might have caused tree resin to harden into amber, concurrently preserving a diversity of animal and plant remains within it, e.g. insects, spiders, snails, flowers, moss, as well as sea creatures like crustaceans, barnacles, oysters, clams and marine diatoms. (Most researchers had the view that resin exuded by the tree solidified at the tree bark, with organisms then getting stuck at the resin surface and subsequently enclosed by successive resin outflows—but this had never been observed and documented. And how could the likes of oysters and marine diatoms become so entombed?) See The amber mystery, Creation 25(2):52–53, 2003; creation.com/amber. Return to text.
  4. Catchpoole, D., Amber needed water (and lots of it), Creation 31(2):20–22, 2009; creation.com/amber1. Return to text.
  5. How pond life falls prey to killer trees, New Scientist 196(2625):21, 2007. Return to text.
  6. Gary, S., Ancient lizards in amber amaze scientists, abc.net.au, 28 July 2015. Return to text.
  7. Sherratt, E., and seven others, Amber fossils demonstrate deep-time stability of Caribbean lizard communities, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 112(32):9961–9966, 2015 | doi:10.1073/pnas.1506516112. Return to text.

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