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Gunter Bechly: “Living fossils” under massive attack


From David Klinghoffer at ENST:

If you ever encounter a horseshoe crab on the beach, you are a looking at a creature that would not have appeared out of place hundreds of millions of years ago. Arthropods breathtakingly similar to this, says paleontologist Günter Bechly, go back “almost a half billion years without significant morphological change. And you really have to let this number sink in.”

Some want to get rid of the category. At the Guardian, Mark Carnall says,

Although the idea of living fossils flourished after Darwin introduces the idea, it was never formally defined and was used as a catch all for apparently any organism that has an interesting fossil record. In a paper on rates of evolution, palaeontologist Thomas Schopf reviewed the problem of “living fossils” in scientific publishing. The term was invariably used to describe living species that: persist over a long geologic time interval; were thought to be extinct and rediscovered; are morphologically or physiologically similar across living and fossil species; have “primitive” traits; have a smaller geographic range than ancestors or have a lower diversity today than relatives in the past (Schopf 1984). Under at least one of these definitions, our species could be considered a living fossil. Schopf then went on to describe how many of the classic living fossil organisms don’t actually fit many of the criteria concluding that “the claim that ‘living fossils’ are ancient species is completely arbitrary”. (2016) More.

If so, living fossils are not the problem. The flagrant mess that is called the concept of speciation is the problem.

Paleontologist Gunter Bechly comments,

Says Bechly, living fossils stand as “empirical refutations” of traditional evolutionary theory. That is one reason their very existence is coming under a “massive attack” by Darwinian evolutionists accompanied by headlines like, “Let’s make living fossils extinct” (Guardian).

Some are in denial, while others equivocate. The latter try to explain that “these living fossils do evolve but they evolve toward keeping their particular form, which is optimized.” In other words, they evolve toward not evolving.

It’s another case, according to Bechly, where evolution acts as a “magic wand,” wondrously encompassing all evidence however plainly contradictory of its expectation. Under the theory, things evolve when they evolve and do not evolve when they do not evolve. Can you beat that? No, you can’t beat it. An idea like that that can never be falsified. More.


Here at Uncommon Descent, we have wanted to come up with a better name than “living fossils.” The term reminds some of us of “non-fiction writing.” Why name something for what it isn’t?

We came up with ”durable species.” But don’t expect it to catch on in a world where “living fossils” creates the idea that the life forms in question are exotic, even though they usually aren’t. For that matter, stasis, where nothing much changes for long periods of time, is quite common in nature.

See also: We need a new name for living fossils like this

Finally, retiring the term “living fossils” is hot


Stasis: When life goes on but evolution does not happen


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