Monday, 10 January 2022

Evolution News - Science Does it Again! Creationism Refuted by Australian Fossil Discoveries

Fossils from McGraths Flat
Left: a spider. Right: a feather.
Life in the ‘dead’ heart of Australia - The Australian Museum

Two of the major problems Creationism, especially the Young Earth variety, has never been able to overcome are:
  1. The lack of evidence for their assertions.
  2. The abundant evidence that the childish notion is wrong.
But, since Creationist are well versed in avoiding these problems, the discovery of even more evidence for 2 is unlikely to have much influence on them. Besides, the true test of a dedicated Creationist, of any variety, is that nothing can make them change their mind, because to them, 'faith' trumps even glaringly obvious evidence. In fact, many of them spend vast amounts of time online trying to prove that to themselves and others because the thought that they could be wrong is an existential threat that must be resisted at all costs.

So, here is that evidence for 2, from Australia, as described in an Australian Museum news release:

Staghorn Beetle ©Michael Frese

Pollen Grain ©Michael Frese

Nothofagadites pollen ©Michael Frese
A team of Australian and international scientists led by Australian Museum (AM) and University of New South Wales (UNSW) palaeontologist Dr Matthew McCurry and Dr Michael Frese of the University of Canberra have discovered and investigated an important new fossil site in New South Wales, Australia, containing superb examples of fossilised animals and plants from the Miocene epoch. The team’s findings were published today in Science Advances.

The new fossil site (named McGraths Flat), located in the Central Tablelands, NSW near the town of Gulgong, represents one of only a handful of fossil sites in Australia that can be classified as a ‘Lagerstätte’– a site that contains fossils of exceptional quality.

Over the last three years a team of researchers has been secretly excavating the site, discovering thousands of specimens including rainforest plants, insects, spiders, fish and a bird feather.


McGraths Flat

First found in 2017, McGraths Flat is named after Nigel McGrath who discovered the first fossils from the site. The site is located near Gulgong in central NSW (Gulgong is a Wiradjuri word that means “deep waterhole”).

The Miocene Epoch (~23–5 million years ago) was a time of immense change in Australia. The Australian continent had separated from Antarctica and South America and was drifting northwards. When the Miocene began there was enormous richness and variety of plant and animal life in Australia. But at around 14 million years ago an abrupt change in climate known as the “Middle Miocene Disruption” caused widespread extinctions. Throughout the latter half of the Miocene, Australia gradually became more and more arid, and rainforests turned into the dry shrublands and deserts that now characterise the landscape. The newly discovered fossil site, McGraths Flat, provides an unprecedented look into what Australian ecosystems were like prior to this aridification.
The finds include:
  • wasps and sawflies
  • ants
  • cicadas
  • mayflies and dragonflies
  • assassin bugs
  • termites
  • beetles
  • flies
  • spiders
  • fish
  • a single bird feather
  • many plant leaves
  • flowers and fruiting bodies
  • microfossils (including pollen, spores and fungi)

Explaining the significance of this site in establishing the biological, meteorological and geological history of Australia, first author, Dr Matthew McCurry said the fossils formed between 11 and 16 million years ago and are important for understanding the history of the Australian continent.

Scroll down to see lots more spectacular fossils

Copyright: © 2022 The authors. Published by American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Open access
Reprinted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0)
The fossils we have found prove that the area was once a temperate, mesic rainforest and that life was rich and abundant here in the Central Tablelands, NSW. Many of the fossils that we are finding are new to science and include trapdoor spiders, giant cicadas, wasps and a variety of fish. Until now it has been difficult to tell what these ancient ecosystems were like, but the level of preservation at this new fossil site means that even small fragile organisms like insects turned into well-preserved fossils.

We think that the process that turned these organisms into fossils is key to why they are so well preserved. Our analyses suggest that the fossils formed when iron-rich groundwaters drained into a billabong, and that a precipitation of iron minerals encased organisms that were living in or fell into the water. The pollen we found in the sediment suggests that there might have been drier habitats surrounding the wetter rainforest, indicating a change to drier conditions.
Associate Professor, Michael Frese, who imaged the fossils using stacking microphotography and a scanning electron microscope (SEM), said that the fossils from McGraths Flat show an incredibly detailed preservation, and added:
Using electron microscopy, I can image individual cells of plants and animals and sometimes even very small subcellular structures. The fossils also preserve evidence of interactions between species. For instance, we have fish stomach contents preserved in the fish, meaning that we can figure out what they were eating. We have also found examples of pollen preserved on the bodies of insects so we can tell which species were pollinating which plants.
The discovery of melanosomes (subcellular organelles that store the melanin pigment) allows us to reconstruct the colour pattern of birds and fishes that once lived at McGraths Flat. Interestingly, the colour itself is not preserved, but by comparing the size, shape and stacking pattern of the melanosomes in our fossils with melanosomes in extant specimens, we can often reconstruct colour and/or colour patterns.
Professor David Cantrill, second author and Executive Director, Science, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, said the variety of fossils preserved, together with an extraordinary fidelity of preservation, allows for unprecedented insights into an important time in Australia’s past, a time when mesic ecosystems still dominated the continent.
The McGraths Flat plant fossils give us a window into the vegetation and ecosystems of a warmer world, one that we are likely to experience in the future. The preservation of the plant fossils is unique and provides important insights into a time period for which the fossil record in Australia is rather poor.
And Australian Museum Chief Scientist and director of the AM’s Research Institute, Professor Kristofer Helgen, who was not involved with the research, said that the fossil site brings to life a picture of outback Australia that we can now barely believe existed.
Australia is the most unique continent biologically, and this site is extremely valuable in what it tells us about the evolutionary history of this part of the world. It provides further evidence of changing climates and helps fill the gaps in our knowledge of that time and region. The AM has a rich history of expeditions and scientific research, and we love that the public is always fascinated by these fundamental human endeavours of exploration and discovery.
A vast amount there for creationists to ignore and/or deny. For example, the fact that Earth was not created, as is, but underwent huge changes as continents broke up and climate changed, leading to the evolution, and subsequent extinction, of vary many species. The evidence of a predatory lifestyle and parasitism, and death as evidenced by the need to reproduce provided by the pollen grains and (dead) food in the stomachs of predatory fish, despite the silly superstition that such things never existed in some notional, perfect vegan paradise on earth, before a mythical couple shared an apple a few thousand years ago.

And of course, the unarguable evidence that these evolutionary changes were driven by environmental change, just as the TOE says. Plus, the fact that, despite constant claims since about 1940 that the TOE was about to be overthrown, no evidence whatsoever for that in this paper, where environment-driven evolution is a fundamental biological concept.

As we have come to expect of science, this is just another example of how revealing the facts, quite incidentally and without intent, but comprehensively nonetheless, utterly refutes Creationism in all its guises.

Thank you for sharing!

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