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New Paper in Nature Argues That Ediacaran Fossils Not Ancestral To Cambrian Fauna

A new paper has just been published in Nature by Gregory J. Retallack of the University of Oregon. The paper argues that the Ediacaran fauna are not ancestral to the animals which arose in the Cambrian explosion and that life existed on land 65 million years before previously thought. Retallack further argues that the iconic fossils of Dickinsonia and Springgina, which appear in the Precambrian Ediacaran assemblages, were not in fact animals at all. Rather they were, according to Retallack, lichens, soil structures and traces of slime moulds.

The paper reports,

Newly documented palaeosols in the Ediacara Member of the Rawnsley Quartzite in South Australia now call for a re-evaluation of its famous fossils, widely considered evolutionary predecessors of the Cambrian explosion of marine animal phyla. Ediacaran red beds of South Australia (Figs 1 and 2) were initially considered non-marine by Douglas Mawson and Ralph Segnit. When Mawson’s student Reginald Sprigg discovered and interpreted South Australian Ediacaran fossils as marine jellyfish, this palaeoenvironmental contradiction was resolved by a compromise interpretation of jellyfish thrown up onto tidal flats by storms. Ediacaran fossils are known worldwide in a variety of sedimentary facies, generally interpreted as shallow to deep marine, following Sprigg’s comparison with marine animals, although such comparisons now seem increasingly doubtful. Most Ediacaran fossils have no clear relationship with modern animals. Putative Neoproterozoic ‘embryos’ were more likely to have been protists. Putative permineralized metazoans may instead have been crystal-lined vughs, and other permineralized Ediacaran fossils were red algae or glomeromycotan lichens. Precambrian shallow trails may have been made by slime moulds in their slug aggregation phase rather than worms. There have also been suggestions that Ediacaran fossils were giant protists, such as xenophyopores, or fungi, such as lichens [internal citations omitted].

An article in Nature News further comments,

The latest study proposes that rock in the Ediacara Member in South Australia — where palaeontologist Reginald Sprigg first discovered Ediacaran fossils in 1947 — represents ancient soils, and presents new geological data. Among other lines of evidence, Retallack argues that the rock’s red colour and weathering pattern indicate that the deposits were formed in terrestrial — not marine — environments.

Under this hypothesis, Retallack recasts Dickinsonia and Spriggina as lichens and suggests that trails attributed to Ediacaran worms actually indicate slime-mould growth. In place of a sea bed, Retallack says that he sees a terrestrial environment similar to the Arctic tundra, with large organisms present “in greater diversity than life in the ocean” at the time.

Another Nature News article stated,

Perhaps the only point of agreement is that, whatever else they were, the Ediacarans lived on the sandy beds of shallow, sunlit seas. This is where Retallack parts company with just about everyone else, because some of his Ediacaran palaeosols are associated with Ediacaran fossils. This would mean that at least some Ediacarans lived on land, under the sky, perhaps in the manner of lichens, or microbial colonies that form soil crusts. The Ediacarans, then, would be the now-not-so-rare (and not at all mythical) creatures that first colonized the land — not just in puddles, but in soils indicative of a dry, cold desert. This is as far away as imaginable from the oceanic idyll that many have assumed for Ediacaran organisms, and have reconstructed as such in a million coffee-table books.

Why is this paper significant? At Science Daily, the author is quoted as explaining that “This discovery has implications for the tree of life, because it removes Ediacaran fossils from the ancestry of animals.” If these Ediacaran fossils are not ancestral to the animals that appear so explosively in the Cambrian (a position held by others in the field), then those who hold true to the neo-Darwinian paradigm have very little left to cling to. Darwin’s dilemma remains.

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8 Responses to New Paper in Nature Argues That Ediacaran Fossils Not Ancestral To Cambrian Fauna

  1. This is disruptive news. But don’t break out the champagne yet. Wait for the inevitable pseudoscientific spins and just-so stories.

  2. Are all the Ediacaran fauna animals?

    Are all the Cambrian fauna animals?

  3. It is interesting to note that some atheists, in the past, have attacked the Genesis account of creation because it had been thought in science, apparently until now, that life on land did not precede life in the sea as the Genesis account holds that it does,,,

    Genesis 1:11-12
    Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation:

    Genesis 1:20
    Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures,”,,,

    Yet now,, to quote the Science Daily article,,,

    Australian Multicellular Fossils Point to Life On Land, Not at Sea, Geologist Proposes – Dec. 12, 2012
    Excerpt: Ediacaran fossils, he said, represent “an independent evolutionary radiation of life on land that preceded by at least 20 million years the Cambrian evolutionary explosion of animals in the sea.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134050.htm

    Thus, just as with the creation ex-nihilo of the entire universe, which Genesis uniquely got right amaong all the ‘holy’ books of the world, it now appears that life on the land preceded animal life in the seas, just as the Bible held all along. Perhaps it is time for people to take the one of who the Bible testifies more seriously? :)

    John 5:39
    Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me;

    Note:

    It is also very interesting to note that among all the ‘holy’ books, of all the major religions in the world, only the Holy Bible was correct in its claim for a transcendent origin of the universe. Some later ‘holy’ books, such as the Mormon text “Pearl of Great Price” and the Qur’an, copy the concept of a transcendent origin from the Bible but also include teachings that are inconsistent with that now established fact. (Hugh Ross; Why The Universe Is The Way It Is; Pg. 228; Chpt.9; note 5)

    The Uniqueness Of The Bible Among ‘holy books’ and Evidence of God in Creation (Hugh Ross) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjYSz1OYG8Y

    The Uniqueness of Genesis 1:1 – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBXdQCkISo0

    Here is an interesting quote I ran across yesterday:

    “I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite intelligence. I believe that the universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science.”
    Anthony Flew – world’s leading intellectual atheist for most of his adult life until a few years shortly before his death
    The Case for a Creator – Lee Strobel (Nov. 25, 2012 Saddleback Church) – video
    http://www.saddleback.com/mc/m/ee32d/

    Music

    Manger Throne – Third Day w/ Derri Daugherty & Julie Miller
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SReh7gnbgYs

  4. OT: Video playlist of different ‘Paradise’ birds:
    Rare Glimpses of Amazing Birds-of-Paradise Courtship Rituals –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....W8CJmPNNNA

  5. 5
    sagebrush gardener

    When the scientists finally get to the top of the mountain, they will find the theologians waiting for them.

  6. The Bible also says the earth was formed out of water as Genesis 1:2 shows. But evolutionary theory has the earth as a fireball in the beginning. I doubt this will ever be reconciled as long as scientists hold on to the Big Bang as their origins explanation.

  7. Wait a minute, so the fauna are actually flora?

    No wonder some lay people have a hard time remembering which is which!

  8. tjguy you state:

    The Bible also says the earth was formed out of water as Genesis 1:2 shows. But evolutionary theory has the earth as a fireball in the beginning. I doubt this will ever be reconciled as long as scientists hold on to the Big Bang as their origins explanation.

    In the video I listed previously Dr. Hugh Ross goes over that very passage, Genesis 1:2, and reconciles it by noting the ‘frame of reference’ of God. In this following video Dr. Hugh Ross notes:

    ,,, ‘And if you’re curious about how Genesis 1, in particular, fairs. Hey, we look at the Days in Genesis as being long time periods, which is what they must be if you read the Bible consistently, and the Bible scores 4 for 4 in Initial Conditions and 10 for 10 on the Creation Events’
    Hugh Ross – Evidence For Intelligent Design Is Everywhere; (1 in 10^1054) video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347236

    As well it should be noted that the term ‘Big Bang’, as in a big, messy, explosion, is a gross misnomer for what actually happened:

    “The Big Bang represents an immensely powerful, yet carefully planned and controlled release of matter, energy, space and time. All this is accomplished within the strict confines of very carefully fine-tuned physical constants and laws. The power and care this explosion reveals exceeds human mental capacity by multiple orders of magnitude.”
    Prof. Henry F. Schaefer – closing statement of part 5 of this video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSThtmA1J_U

    In fact the term ‘Big Bang’, as is usual for atheists, was originally devised by atheists as a term of derision to try to dismiss the entire idea as ‘unscientific’:

    “There has arisen a curious consilience between the findings of modern cosmology and some traditional understandings of the creation of the universe. For example, theists have noted that the model known as the Big Bang has a certain consistency with the Judeo-Christian notion of creation ex nihilo, a consistency not seen in other cosmologies that postulated an eternally existent universe. (In fact, when the astronomer-priest Georges Lemaître first postulated the theory, he was met with such skepticism by proponents of an eternal universe that the name “Big Bang” was coined by his opponents — as a term of ridicule.) Likewise, many cosmologists have articulated various forms of what is known as the “anthropic principle” — that is, the observation that the basic laws of the universe seem to be “fine-tuned” in such a way as to be favorable to life, including human life.”
    – Austin L. Hughes, evolutionary biologist – “The Folly of Scientism,” The New Atlantis (Fall, 2012):32-50.

    In fact, I find it very interesting that the false materialistic belief of the universe being stable, and infinite in duration, was so deeply rooted in supposedly ‘scientific’ thought that Albert Einstein (1879-1955), when he was shown his general relativity equation indicated a universe that was unstable and would ‘draw together’ under its own gravity, in his self admitted ‘greatest blunder’, added a cosmological constant to his equation to try to reflect a stable universe rather than entertain the thought that the universe may have had an actual beginning.

    Einstein and The Belgian Priest, George Lemaitre – The “Father” Of The Big Bang Theory – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4279662

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