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Ghost worms unchanged in form for 275 million years but show “highly distinct” genetics?

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Upper specimen: Stygocapitella josemariobrancoi from a beach close to Plymouth, UK: Lower specimen: Stygocapitella furcata from the 4th of July beach on San Juan island, WA, USA/
José Cerca, Christian Meyer, Günter Purschke, Torsten H. Struck

A significant fact about the history of life is the many situations in which evolution doesn’t happen. Needless to say, in a Darwin-dominated environment, that fact and its significance is understated and understudied:

That size, shape and structure of organisms can evolve at different speeds is well known, ranging from fast-evolving adaptive radiations to living fossils such as cichlids or coelacanths, respectively.

A team lead by biologists at the Natural History Museum (University of Oslo) has uncovered a group of species in which change in appearance seems to have been brought to a complete halt.

The tiny annelid worms belonging to the genus Stygocapitella live in sandy beaches around the world. In their 275-million-year-old history the worms have evolved ten distinct species.

But what makes the group stand out is its presence of only four different appearances, or morphotypes. Such absence of morphological change has lately proven to be a common feature of many so-called cryptic species complexes, for example, in mammals, snails, crustaceans or jellyfishes.

– Cryptic species are species which have already been distinct species for a substantial amount of time, but have accumulated very little or no morphological differences.

Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, “Ghost worms mostly unchanged since the age of dinosaurs” at Eurekalert

So “cryptic species” means “didn’t really evolve much in form.” Let’s make a note of that. And now get this:

– Such species can help us understand how evolution proceeds in the absence of morphological evolution, and which factors might be important in these cases, explains professor Torsten Struck at the Natural History Museum (University of Oslo)

Two of the Stygocapitella species that were investigated split apart at the same time when the Stegosaurus and Brachiosaurus roamed about.

But despite 140 million years of evolution, these ghost worms today look almost exactly the same. However, looks may be deceiving. Molecular investigations reveal that they are highly genetically distinct, and considered reproductively isolated species.

In comparison to other cryptic-species complexes that are separated by a maximum of a couple million years, the time span in this complex is ten times longer, which makes the lack of change in ghost worms extreme.

Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, “Ghost worms mostly unchanged since the age of dinosaurs” at Eurekalert

So “these ghost worms today look almost exactly the same” but “they are highly genetically distinct”? Which means that genetics and morphology (body form) don’t have much to do with each other? The researchers admit, more or less, that they really don’t know.

Yes, that is odd. So many lecterns splintered in vain. But, one wants to ask, how distinct are the genomes of these species that all look the same?

Would it be like mapping a cat’s genome and finding a German Shepherd’s GATTACA in there? What that level of distinction really tells us goes well beyond cats and German Shepherds. Or do the researchers really mean something less highly distinct? What? We search for analogies here.

See also: Stasis: When life goes on but evolution does not happen

11 Replies to “Ghost worms unchanged in form for 275 million years but show “highly distinct” genetics?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    The fossil record by itself refutes Darwinian evolution.

    “Darwin’s prediction of rampant, albeit gradual, change affecting all lineages through time is refuted. The record is there, and the record speaks for tremendous anatomical conservatism. Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.”
    Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myth of Human Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 45-46.

    NILES ELDREDGE, Columbia Univ., American Museum of Nat. Hist., “He [Darwin] prophesied that future generations of paleontologists would fill in these gaps by diligent search. … One hundred and twenty years of paleontological research later, it has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin’s predictions. Nor is the problem a miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction was wrong.” The Myths of Human Evolution, p.45-46

    The Ham-Nye Creation Debate: A Huge Missed Opportunity – Casey Luskin – February 4, 2014
    Excerpt: “The record of the first appearance of living phyla, classes, and orders can best be described in Wright’s (1) term as ‘from the top down’.”
    (James W. Valentine, “Late Precambrian bilaterians: Grades and clades,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 91: 6751-6757 (July 1994).)
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....81911.html

    “Darwin had a lot of trouble with the fossil record because if you look at the record of phyla in the rocks as fossils why when they first appear we already see them all. The phyla are fully formed. It’s as if the phyla were created first and they were modified into classes and we see that the number of classes peak later than the number of phyla and the number of orders peak later than that. So it’s kind of a top down succession, you start with this basic body plans, the phyla, and you diversify them into classes, the major sub-divisions of the phyla, and these into orders and so on. So the fossil record is kind of backwards from what you would expect from in that sense from what you would expect from Darwin’s ideas.”
    James W. Valentine – as quoted from “On the Origin of Phyla: Interviews with James W. Valentine” – (as stated at 1:16:36 mark of video)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtdFJXfvlm8

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    “In Chen’s view, his evidence supports a history of life that runs opposite to the standard evolutionary tree diagrams, a progression he calls top-down evolution.”
    Jun-Yuan Chen is professor at the Nanjing Institute of Paleontology and Geology
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    In Explaining the Cambrian Explosion, Has the TalkOrigins Archive Resolved Darwin’s Dilemma? – JonathanM – May 2012
    Excerpt: it is the pattern of morphological disparity preceding diversity that is fundamentally at odds with the neo-Darwinian scenario of gradualism. All of the major differences (i.e. the higher taxonomic categories such as phyla) appear first in the fossil record and then the lesser taxonomic categories such as classes, orders, families, genera and species appear later. On the Darwinian view, one would expect to see all of the major differences in body plan appear only after numerous small-scale speciation events. But this is not what we observe.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....59171.html

    “The facts of greatest general importance are the following. When a new phylum, class, or order appears, there follows a quick, explosive (in terms of geological time) diversification so that practically all orders or families known appear suddenly and without any apparent transitions. Afterwards, a slow evolution follows; this frequently has the appearance of a gradual change, step by step, though down to the generic level abrupt major steps without transitions occur. At the end of such a series, a kind of evolutionary running-wild frequently is observed. Giant forms appear, and odd or pathological types of different kinds precede the extinction of such a line.”
    Richard B. Goldschmidt, “Evolution, as Viewed by One Geneticist,” American Scientist 40 (January 1952), 97.

    As Roger Lewin (1988) explains in Science,
    “Several possible patterns exist for the establishment of higher taxa, the two most obvious of which are the bottom-up and the top-down approaches. In the first, evolutionary novelties emerge, bit by bit. The Cambrian explosion appears to conform to the second pattern, the top-down effect.”

    Erwin et al. (1987), in their study of marine invertebrates, similarly conclude that,
    “The fossil record suggests that the major pulse of diversification of phyla occurs before that of classes, classes before that of orders, orders before that of families. The higher taxa do not seem to have diverged through an accumulation of lower taxa.”
    Indeed, the existence of numerous small and soft-bodied animals in the Precambrian strata undermines one of the most popular responses that these missing transitions can be accounted for by them being too small and too-soft bodied to be preserved.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....67021.html

    Scientific study turns understanding about evolution on its head – July 30, 2013
    Excerpt: evolutionary biologists,,, looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form.
    Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories.
    ,,,Dr Matthew Wills said: “This pattern, known as ‘early high disparity’, turns the traditional V-shaped cone model of evolution on its head. What is equally surprising in our findings is that groups of animals are likely to show early-high disparity regardless of when they originated over the last half a billion years. This isn’t a phenomenon particularly associated with the first radiation of animals (in the Cambrian Explosion), or periods in the immediate wake of mass extinctions.”,,,
    Author Martin Hughes, continued: “Our work implies that there must be constraints on the range of forms within animal groups, and that these limits are often hit relatively early on.
    Co-author Dr Sylvain Gerber, added: “A key question now is what prevents groups from generating fundamentally new forms later on in their evolution.,,,”
    http://phys.org/news/2013-07-s.....ution.html

    Problem 5: Abrupt Appearance of Species in the Fossil Record Does Not Support Darwinian Evolution – Casey Luskin January 29, 2015
    Excerpt: Rather than showing gradual Darwinian evolution, the history of life shows a pattern of explosions where new fossil forms come into existence without clear evolutionary precursors. Evolutionary anthropologist Jeffrey Schwartz summarizes the problem:
    “We are still in the dark about the origin of most major groups of organisms. They appear in the fossil record as Athena did from the head of Zeus — full-blown and raring to go, in contradiction to Darwin’s depiction of evolution as resulting from the gradual accumulation of countless infinitesimally minute variations. . .”98
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....91141.html

    “With the benefit of hindsight, it is amazing that paleontologists could have accepted gradual evolution as a universal pattern on the basis of a handful of supposedly well-documented lineages (e.g. Gryphaea, Micraster, Zaphrentis) none of which actually withstands close scrutiny.”
    Christopher R.C. Paul, “Patterns of Evolution and Extinction in Invertebrates,” K.C. Allen and D.E.G. Briggs, eds., Evolution and the Fossil Record (Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), 105.

    “It must be significant that nearly all the evolutionary stories I learned as a student from Trueman’s Ostrea/Gryphaea to Carruthers’ Zaphrentis delanouei, have now been ‘debunked’. Similarly, my own experience of more than twenty years looking for evolutionary lineages among the Mesozoic Brachiopoda has proved them equally elusive.’
    Dr. Derek V. Ager (Department of Geology & Oceonography, University College, Swansea, UK), ‘The nature of the fossil record’. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, vol.87(2), 1976,p.132.

    “The point emerges that if we examine the fossil record in detail, whether at the level of orders or of species, we find’ over and over again’ not gradual evolution, but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another.”
    Paleontologist, Derek V. Ager, “The Nature of the Fossil Record,” 87 Proceedings of the British Geological Association 87 (1976): 133. (Department of Geology & Oceanography, University College, Swansea, UK)

    “It is a feature of the known fossil record that most taxa appear abruptly. They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost imperceptibly changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should be usual in evolution…This phenomenon becomes more universal and more intense as the hierarchy of categories is ascended. Gaps among known species are sporadic and often small. Gaps among known orders, classes and phyla are systematic and almost always large.”
    G.G.Simpson – one of the most influential American Paleontologist of the 20th century

    “A major problem in proving the theory has been the fossil record; the imprints of vanished species preserved in the Earth’s geological formations. This record has never revealed traces of Darwin’s hypothetical intermediate variants – instead species appear and disappear abruptly, and this anomaly has fueled the creationist argument that each species was created by God.”
    Paleontologist, Mark Czarnecki

    “There is no need to apologize any longer for the poverty of the fossil record. In some ways, it has become almost unmanageably rich and discovery is outpacing integration. The fossil record nevertheless continues to be composed mainly of gaps.”
    T. Neville George – Professor of paleontology – Glasgow University,

    “Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them.”
    David Kitts – Paleontologist – D.B. Kitts, Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory (1974), p. 467.

    “The long-term stasis, following a geologically abrupt origin, of most fossil morphospecies, has always been recognized by professional paleontologists” –
    Stephen Jay Gould – Harvard

    “Now, after over 120 years of the most extensive and painstaking geological exploration of every continent and ocean bottom, the picture is infinitely more vivid and complete than it was in 1859. Formations have been discovered containing hundreds of billions of fossils and our museums now are filled with over 100 million fossils of 250,000 different species. The availability of this profusion of hard scientific data should permit objective investigators to determine if Darwin was on the right track. What is the picture which the fossils have given us? … The gaps between major groups of organisms have been growing even wider and more undeniable. They can no longer be ignored or rationalized away with appeals to imperfection of the fossil record.”
    Luther D. Sunderland, Darwin’s Enigma 1988, Fossils and Other Problems, 4th edition, Master Books, p. 9

    “The evidence we find in the geological record is not nearly as compatible with Darwinian natural selection as we would like it to be …. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than in Darwin’s time … so Darwin’s problem has not been alleviated”.
    David Raup, Curator of Geology at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History

    Günter Bechly video: Fossil Discontinuities: A Refutation of Darwinism and Confirmation of Intelligent Design – 2018
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7w5QGqcnNs
    The fossil record is dominated by abrupt appearances of new body plans and new groups of organisms. This conflicts with the gradualistic prediction of Darwinian Evolution. Here 18 explosive origins in the history of life are described, demonstrating that the famous Cambrian Explosion is far from being the exception to the rule. Also the fossil record establishes only very brief windows of time for the origin of complex new features, which creates an ubiquitous waiting time problem for the origin and fixation of the required coordinated mutations. This refutes the viability of the Neo-Darwinian evolutionary process as the single conceivable naturalistic or mechanistic explanation for biological origins, and thus confirms Intelligent Design as the only reasonable alternative.

  2. 2
    BobRyan says:

    If Darwin were truly about science, they would have long given up on the Theory. There were issues with fossils, which Darwin himself pointed out in regards to the Cambrian explosion. He believed more fossils would be discovered and settled later, which never happened. The fossil records do not show any mutations at all. If evolution occurred, as Darwin and others of his day believed, then there should be countless mutations in the fossil records. They point to gaps of millions of years as evidence, but they have to ignore the lack of anything to fill in the gaps.

  3. 3
    martin_r says:

    BobRyan @2

    “If Darwin were truly about science, they would have long given up on the Theory.”

    if Darwin would know what 21st century science knows (especially the molecular biology), he would take his famous book, and splash it in the toilet (and start to believe in God again ) …

  4. 4
    martin_r says:

    bad design ?

    this worm has been self-replicating for 300 millions of years !!!

    THIS IS AN ENGINEERING SCI-FI !!!!!!

  5. 5
    martin_r says:

    obviously, biologists got something wrong …. again….

    the species (after 300 millions of years) looks the same, but the genome is highly distinct

    WHAT GOT THEY WRONG AGAIN ????

    it is no longer funny… biologists and their theories and hypotheses …. every single claim, later turns out to be wrong…

  6. 6
    drc466 says:

    How, exactly, did they do”molecular investigations”? After “140 million years” there shouldn’t be any molecules left to investigate…

  7. 7
    BobRyan says:

    Martin_r @ 3

    “if Darwin would know what 21st century science knows (especially the molecular biology), he would take his famous book, and splash it in the toilet (and start to believe in God again )”

    Darwin was too arrogant to give up on the idea, but may have tried his luck in the fiction section where it belongs. Darwin’s ‘Descent of Man’ is the book that everyone should be required to familiarize themselves with. Would they still call him a genius if they knew he spoke fondly of the civilized races killing off the barbaric races?

  8. 8
    Truthfreedom says:

    @BobRyan
    Darwin was clear: monkey minds can not be trusted (except of course his and those of his ideological allies).
    Typical and it would be funny if it were not tragic.

  9. 9
    BobRyan says:

    Truthfreedom

    Tragic is an understatement. The work he started, through Descent of Man, lead to the eugenicists and all the evils they brought to the world.

  10. 10
    Truthfreedom says:

    @9 BobRyan: of course. ‘Survival of the fittest’ / the ‘best’ ones win and reproduce + there is no punishment/no God led logically to the horrors of eugenics, brutal wars and the ‘lovely’ ideology of communism (atheism on steroids).

    Darwinism is the bedrock of this triada, that has brought unending human suffering to the world. Why should we not behave like the beasts we are? We are not better than slime or wolf packs.

    And another source of evil (as if we had not had enough): they are trying to destroy everything that is valuable and good in humans: love, morals, our sense of personhood/’I’, purpose and merit are all ‘illussions’. Misery loves company they say.

  11. 11
    BobRyan says:

    Truthfreedom @ 10

    Communism has never failed the people. The people have failed communism. It just hasn’t been done in the right way, and pay no attention to what’s happening in Venezuela right now. Atheists do not care about human misery and human suffering. We are nothing more than animals and should be treated as such.

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