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The coelacanth, thought extinct for ages, is still living (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (The coelacanth, thought extinct for ages, is still living (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CB930.1:

The coelacanth, thought to have been extinct for 70 million years and used as an example of a fish-tetrapod transition, was found still alive, unchanged in form, today.

Source: Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 82-83,89.

CreationWiki response:

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

  • The modern coelacanth is Latimeria chalumnae, in the family Latimeriidae. Fossil coelacanths are in other families, mostly Coelacanthidae...

Talk Origins in totally wrong here, Genus Latimeria is in the Family Coelacanthidae. In fact it turns out that Latimeriidae is just another name for Coelacanthidae.


...and are significantly different in that they are smaller and lack certain internal structures.

These differences could simply mean that fossil coelacanths were young. There is no indication of any young coelacanths' being caught. Living and fossil coelacanths could also be varieties of the same created kind, but only one ended up producing fossils on land.


Latimeria has no fossil record, so it cannot be a "living fossil."

This is a just matter of semantics, the only real difference being how they are labeled. Living and fossil coelacanths are clearly the same created kind, they look more alike than some breeds of dog.

  • Even if the modern coelacanth and fossil coelacanths were the same, it would not be a serious problem for evolution. The theory of evolution does not say that all organisms must evolve. In an unchanging environment, natural selection would tend to keep things largely unchanged morphologically.

In pre DNA evolution theory this would be true, but the discovery of DNA changes this. Mutations occur in DNA even in an unchanging environment and natural selection would not weed out harmless mutations, therefore some would survive and accumulate. Over 70 million years enough such mutations would have accumulated that there should be more differences than are actually observed. Furthermore there is no way that even in the deepest oceans the environment would remain unchanged for 70+ million years.

Besides, living fossils like the coelacanth show more than just a lack of evolution; they show that an organism's absence in certain rock layers does not mean that it was not living when the rock was laid down. The entire evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record is based on these two assumptions:

  1. An organism's appearance in the fossil record shows when it first evolved
  2. An organism's disappearance from the fossil record shows when it became extinct.

Living fossils like the coelacanth show that these assumptions are wrong and that other factors determine where an organism is found in the fossil record.

  • Coelacanths have primitive features relative to most other fish, so at one time they were one of the closest known specimens to the fish-tetrapod transition. We now know several other fossils that show the fish-tetrapod transition quite well.

The designation of some features as primitive is subjective and assumes evolution. as does the entire so called fish-tetrapod transition.

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