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Swedish fossil fern preserves chromosome detail, pointing to catastrophic burial

A casualty of the biblical Flood


First published: 28 October 2014 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 14 April 2021 (GMT+10)
Photo: Benjamin Bomfleur Fossil-fern
Internal structure of the fossilized fern.

Researchers from Lund University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History have described a fossil fern so well preserved that cell nuclei and individual chromosomes could be identified.1 

A farmer Gustav Andersson collected the fossil near Korsaröd in central Skåne, Sweden, in the 1960s, and donated it to the museum.

Recently the fossil came to the attention of researchers Vivi Vajda, Benjamin Bomfleur, and Stephen McLoughlin, who studied the fern using different microscopic techniques, X-rays and geochemical analysis. They published their findings in the journal Science.2 

This fossil displays a number of amazing features that provide spectacular confirmation of, and insight into, the global Flood catastrophe described in the Bible. On the other side of the coin, these features dramatically contradict the scenario of evolution over millions of years.

Instantaneous burial

Researchers said the fern was from the early Jurassic Period, and quoted its age as 180 million years. They did not use radioactive dating techniques to decide the age. Rather they said they studied the pollen and spores in the surrounding rocks and so they would have matched these to the geologic stage they thought fitted best. They then would have looked up the age for that stage on the standard stratigraphic chart.3 However, their analysis of the fern does not comfortably fit such a long age.

Their examinations revealed that the plant was “preserved instantaneously”, before it had started to decompose. They concluded that it was buried abruptly under a “volcanic lava flow”.

The fern was buried so quickly that the sensitive components of its cells were preserved. The researchers found “cell nuclei, cell membranes and even individual chromosomes.”

Viv Vajda, Professor of Geology at Lund University, said, “The preservation happened so quickly that some cells have even been preserved during different stages of cell division”. To be so well preserved during volcanic burial abundant water would have been present to prevent the fern from burning.

Sudden and instantaneous burial means that the enclosing sediments did not take long to accumulate. Such evidence of sudden deposition is not consistent with the quoted ‘age’ of 180 million years for the fern, which comes from the assumption that the sediments accumulated at a rate of only millimetres per millennium.4 

No evolution

According to the report:

“ … the fern belonged to the family Osmundaceae, Royal Ferns. In modern times, royal ferns grow in the wild in Sweden and are also a common garden plant. Living representatives of this family are very similar in appearance to the Jurassic fossil, which suggests that only limited evolutionary change has taken place over the millennia. By comparing the size of the cell nuclei in the fossilised plant with its living relatives, the researchers have been able to show that the royal ferns have outstanding evolutionary stability.”

Vivi Vajda said, “Royal Ferns look essentially the same now as they did during the Jurassic Period, and are therefore an excellent example of what we call a living fossil”.

“Outstanding evolutionary stability” is code for no evolution. Another term used is ‘evolutionary stasis’—which again is code for no evolution. This fern was described as “a paramount example of evolutionary stasis.”5 Note that a third term is one that Vivi Vajda used above, viz., ‘living fossil’—again, note no evolutionary change. These terms have come into common usage because there are so many examples of non-evolution.

Evolutionary stasis wipes away millions of years

Not only does the evidence of no-change mean no evolution, but it also means that the quoted times of ‘millions of years’ do not exist.

How is it possible that there could be no change for such a long time? Evolutionists say, “once nature comes up with an architecture that works, it’s prone to stick with it—even for millions of years.”4

Yet that makes no sense because mutations are continually accumulating in the genome of every living thing. Random changes accumulating in a precision machine mean that eventually it will stop working. The implications of this phenomenon have recently been described and dubbed as ‘genetic entropy’. This is leading living organisms rapidly to extinction.6

In other words, ‘living fossils’ are evidence that they have existed only for thousands of years, not millions.

Whole environments were affected

The researchers found that the spores from royal ferns, as well as pollen from coniferous trees, including cypress and cycad, were present in large quantities in the volcanic rock. This is evidence of varied vegetation and a hot, humid climate, and represents the sort of climate that the vegetation was growing in before it was uprooted. The fern was buried in volcanic ash and lava indicating “disastrous volcanic eruptions” occurring at the time. Furthermore, Jurassic rocks are famous for fossils of dinosaurs. This gives an insight into the sort of conditions that were involved in the global Flood—vegetation being uprooted, volcanoes erupting, and dinosaurs being overwhelmed and buried.

Telling a better story

These days, when researchers report their scientific findings to the public they include graphic stories that come from the big-picture evolutionary worldview. It’s these stories that change dry, scientific details into a lively narrative that captures peoples’ imaginations. But the researchers have not personally observed the stories they tell about times before they were born. For this particular fern, part of the attention-grabbing press release read as follows:

"The plant lived around 180 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, when Skåne was a tropical region where the fauna was dominated by dinosaurs, and volcanoes were a common feature of the landscape."

That sounds interesting, but we have seen that the evidence is not a good fit with the long-age evolutionary story. It harmonises with the biblical Flood catastrophe much better. We should tell a different story and place the results within the biblical Flood perspective. Then it would read like this:

“The fern was growing around 4500 years ago in forests that existed before Noah’s Flood. When the Flood catastrophe came upon the earth, these ferns, as well as the cypress and cycad plants and the rest of the landscape were uprooted, carried along by floodwater, sorted and separated, and buried with other creatures that are typically found fossilized in places like the Jura Mountains. Animals, including dinosaurs, and plants that today grow in tropical climates were washed into the area and buried by volcanic ash and sediment as the waters of Noah’s Flood were rising and inundating the earth.7 Volcanoes were common and violent during the cataclysm that engulfed the earth during Noah’s Flood.”8

The remarkable fossil fern found in Sweden displays amazing features pointing to it being created and young, and opening a window onto the global Flood catastrophe described in the Bible.

References and notes

  1. Unique chromosomes preserved in Swedish fossil, http://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/o.o.i.s?id=24890&news_item=6135, 21 March 2014. Return to text.
  2. Bomfleur, B, McLoughlin, S., and Vajda, V., Fossilized Nuclei and Chromosomes Reveal 180 Million Years of Genomic Stasis in Royal Ferns, Science 343(6177):1376–1377, 21 March 2014: DOI: 10.1126/science.1249884. Return to text.
  3. International Chronostratigraphic Chart, International Commission on Stratigraphy, http://www.stratigraphy.org/index.php/ics-chart-timescale. Return to text.
  4. To preserve ages of millions of years in the face of overwhelming evidence for geologic catastrope, geologists are now placing the enormous periods of time into the ‘cracks’ between the rocks where they say nothing geologically occurred. Return to text.
  5. John Timmer, Spectacular fossil fern reveals Jurassic-era chromosomes: Fern’s genome appears to have been stable for at least 180 million years. Mar 22 2014. Return to text.
  6. Sanford, J.C., Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome, FMS Publications, Waterloo, New York, 2005. See interview with John Sanford: Batten, D., Plant geneticist: ‘Darwinian evolution is impossible’, Creation 30(4):45–47, 2008; https://creation.com/geneticist-evolution-impossible. Return to text.
  7. For the timing of Jurassic rocks with the rising floodwaters see:
    Walker, T., The Great Artesian Basin, Australia, Journal of Creation 10(3):379–390, 1996; https://creation.com/great-artesian-basin
    Oard, M.J., The geological column is a general Flood order with many exceptions, Journal of Creation 24(2):78–82, 2010; https://creation.com/geologic-column-general-order. Return to text.
  8. Other examples of volcanoes during the Flood:Walker, T., Volcanoes shaped our planet: Fiery catastrophe greater in the past, Creation 34(2):20–23, 2012; https://creation.com/volcanoes. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Dee M.
from article: " By comparing the size of the cell nuclei in the fossilised plant with its living relatives, the researchers have been able to show that the royal ferns have outstanding evolutionary stability.”

So, when biological organisms do not "evolve" they are credited with evolutionary stability. Everywhere I have seen this phrase used it is with some glee suggesting that the organism is possibly "pure stock" at the pinnacle of its evolutionary tree.

However, when an organism is said to "evolve" through tens of thousands of stages, it is suggested to be a good thing and expected. So, if ferns are at the peak of the evolutionary ladder, then how did ferns evolve to other plants and then to living breathing mammals and reptiles? Oh yeah... right... that was one of the hundred other different ladders that just happened to have evolved at the same time.
Gary F.
After the Lord saved me and brought me out of atheism, it was quite shocking to see how biased so many professors are. I had trusted them to be speaking openly and truthfully and allow me to decide. As Christians we should always speak lovingly and truthfully in this deceptive age. I thank God for ministries such as yours, it has been an amazing journey to learn of the Grand Engineer's laws and design in nature, and also learn of the reliability and truthfulness of His Word. I thank Him for taking me out of the great darkness I was in, and showing His great love for the very ones who hate Him.
John C.
Although the author was very kind in light of the brief quote of the possible burial of the fern under a "volcanic lava flow," it is important to note that existing plants and volcanoes do not mix very well. Lava is hot (Average 1250 F) and plants aren't buried, they're BURNED, often long before the actual body of lava reaches them. Here then is another grand example of 'impossible' preservation (unless, of course, the earth is only thousands of years old.)
Kobus V.
There is something intuitively missing here.

"The fern .. buried so quickly ... sensitive components ... preserved."

"To be so well preserved during volcanic burial abundant water would have been present to prevent the fern from burning."

"Sudden and instantaneous burial ... sediments did not take long to accumulate."

"... spores from royal ferns, ... pollen ..., were present in large quantities in the volcanic rock."

What is clear from observation is that even something as delicate as spores have been preserved in volcanic ash/rock. No question.

1 The generally acceptable explanation for the cause of volcanic rock is attributed to a volcanic eruption.
2 These delicate plant material is observed in volcanic rock.
3 Therefore there is some unexplained mechanism involved in preserving, instead of incinerating, delicate plant material in rock caused by such a destructive process, or an alternative mechanism for forming “volcanic” material.

In order to preserve delicate plant material in a fresh volcanic eruption cannot be explained by adding water to cool it down -> the first amount of water would be vaporized and the rock would become highly open structured, and by the time the rock has been sufficiently cooled, the rock is solid and cannot incorporate the delicate plant matter. Just too much energy to be dealt with and the only “loss” of useful energy is in the form of heat transfer.

Could it be that there might be a mechanism that would be able to explain the obvious contradiction of getting rid of excessive temperature in order to keep rock sufficiently liquid/able for it to incorporate plant material and this before solidifying?
Tas Walker
Hi Kobus,
Check the Science paper you will find that the fern was collected from mafic volcaniclastic rocks [informally named the “Djupadal formation”] at Korsaröd near Höör, Scania, Sweden. Google the Djupadai formation and find that the deposition setting is controversial. The mafic ash deposit sits on sandstone, which was deposited from water. It was not a lava but a volcaniclastic rock, which means it is an ash fall. It clearly could not have been fiery hot or the fern would have burned up. It could have been an ash deposited from water.

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