F Rosa Rubicondior: Creationism in Crisis - A Strange Shaped Tree 360 Million Years Before 'Creation Week'.

Sunday 4 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - A Strange Shaped Tree 360 Million Years Before 'Creation Week'.

Enigmatic fossil plants with three-dimensional, arborescent-growth architecture from the earliest Carboniferous of New Brunswick, Canada: Current Biology

Creationism's designer is not known for creating a design then sticking to it. If you believe creationists, it has designed something like 500,000 beetles, for example, and, although they all do basically the same thing, hundreds of different trees.

And, if you believe creationist mythology, it created almost everything on Earth, hundred, even thousands of millions of years before it created the small flat planet with a dome over it, centred on the Middles East. Sadly, the Bronze Age story-tellers who wrote about it were oblivious of what had been living 360 million years earlier in the Tournaisian age in what is now New Brunswick, Canada, so said nothing about it in their tales. They said nothing about Canada either for that matter, because they were ignorant of anywhere outside their small area of the Middle East, as can be seen from the naive way they describe their world as they imagined it.

Had they been better informed though, they might have mentioned one of the more bizarre tree designs which consisted of a straight trunk about 15 feet tall, with long thin leaves radiating out from the top third and measuring about 18 feet in length, the whole thing resembling a giant green bottle brush. It doesn't appear to have had any branches.

Fossils of this tree have been described by an international team led by Robert Gastaldo of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, USA in collaboration with Matthew Stimson and Olivia King of the New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, and Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and others.

Their work is published, open access, in Current Biology and described in a Cell Press article reprinted in Science Daily:
Before looking at their reports, I'll quickly deal with the dating methods, because you can be sure that creationists, looking for any reason to dismiss the evidence, will start squawking their pre-programmed disinformation and false witnessing against the scientists by claiming they got the date wrong. The method used to age the Tournaisian formation in which the fossils were found was palynostratigraphy:
I'm told that the Tournaisian age is based on palynostratigraphy; what is the Tournaisian and what is palynostratigraphy? The Tournaisian is a subdivision of the Carboniferous period in the geologic timescale. It is named after the city of Tournai in Belgium. The Tournaisian age spans from approximately 358.9 million years ago to 346.7 million years ago. During this time, the Earth's climate was generally warm, and diverse marine life flourished.

Palynostratigraphy, on the other hand, is a branch of stratigraphy that involves the study of organic-walled microfossils called palynomorphs. Palynomorphs include pollen, spores, dinoflagellate cysts, and other microscopic organic structures. These microfossils are often well-preserved in sedimentary rocks and provide valuable information for dating and correlating rock formations.

In the context of the Tournaisian age, palynostratigraphy would involve the analysis of palynomorphs found in sedimentary rocks from that time period. By studying the assemblages of these microfossils, researchers can gain insights into the paleoenvironment, climate, and the evolution of plant and microbial life during the Tournaisian. This information helps geologists and paleontologists establish correlations between different rock layers and refine the geologic timescale.

How do you overcome the Creationist claim that using index fossils is circular reasoning, because their age is determined that way too?

The claim that using index fossils involves circular reasoning is a misunderstanding of how geologists establish the ages of rock layers and construct the geological timescale. While it's true that index fossils are used to date rock layers, it's not a circular argument but rather a method based on independent lines of evidence. Here are key points to consider:
  1. Independent Dating Methods: The ages of index fossils and rock layers are determined using multiple, independent dating methods. For example, radiometric dating of certain minerals in the rocks provides a direct measure of their age. This method relies on the decay of radioactive isotopes and is not dependent on the presence of fossils.
  2. Cross-Verification: Geologists cross-verify the ages obtained from different dating methods. If the ages obtained from radiometric dating, for instance, align with the ages inferred from the presence of index fossils, it provides robust support for the accuracy of both methods.
  3. Fossil Succession: The principle of fossil succession is essential. Index fossils are chosen not only because they are distinctive but also because they have a wide geographic distribution and a relatively short temporal range. This allows for correlation of rock layers on a regional and global scale.
  4. Stratigraphic Correlation: Index fossils are used for stratigraphic correlation, where geologists match rock layers from different locations based on similar fossil assemblages. This helps construct a consistent geological timescale.
  5. Consistency in Ages: When multiple independent lines of evidence consistently yield similar age estimates, it reinforces the reliability of the geological timescale. The correlation between rock layers is not solely based on the presence of index fossils but is supported by various dating methods.
In summary, the use of index fossils is part of a broader approach that involves cross-verifying ages with multiple dating methods and considering the principles of stratigraphy and fossil succession. It is not a circular argument but a robust scientific methodology that has been refined and validated over time.
Creationists then need to explain not how the index fossils were dated but how the rocks they are found in were independently dated by a method so flawed that it made 10,000 years look like at least 360 million years.

The researchers explain their work in a Cell Press news item, reprinted in Science Daily:
In the fossil record, trees typically are preserved with only their trunks. They don't usually include any leaves to show what their canopies and overall forms may have looked like. But now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on February 2 describe fossilized trees from New Brunswick, Canada with a surprising and unique three-dimensional crown shape.

"The way in which this tree produced hugely long leaves around its spindly trunk, and the sheer number over a short length of trunk, is startling," says Robert Gastaldo of Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

The forms taken by these 350-million-year-old trees look something like a fern or palm, even though palms didn't arise until 300 million years later, he explains.

However, the functional leaves in ferns or palm trees cluster at the top and are relatively few.

"In contrast, Sanfordiacaulis preserves more than 250 leaves around its trunk, with each partially preserved leaf extending 1.75 meters from it," Gastaldo says.

"We estimate that each leaf grew at least another meter before terminating. This means that the 'bottle brush' had a dense canopy of leaves that extended at least 5.5 meters (or 18 feet) around a trunk that was non-woody and only 16 centimeters (or 0.5 feet) in diameter. Startling to say the least."

This work was made possible by a long-term international collaboration with Matthew Stimson and Olivia King of the New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, and Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

The researchers' findings offer important insights into the evolution of plants and arborescence, meaning plants that grow to a tree height, or at least 15 feet at maturity.

They're also a reminder that over the history of life on Earth, there have existed trees that look unlike any we've ever seen before and some that look as though they may come from the imagination of Dr. Seuss, the researchers say.

"We all have a mental concept of what a tree looks like, depending on where we live on the planet, and we have a vision of what is familiar," Gastaldo says.

The fossils in question were preserved by earthquake-induced, catastrophic burial of trees and other vegetation along the margin of a rift lake.

The first fossil tree was unearthed about 7 years ago from a quarry, but it only included one partial sample.

It took several years for another four specimens of the same plant, in close spatial proximity, to also be found, Gastaldo says.

One of the specimens revealed how the leaves departed from the top of the tree, which makes it "absolutely unique." It's one of only a few in a fossil record spanning more than 400 million years in which a trunk is preserved around which the crown leaves are still attached, the researchers say.

"Any fossil tree with an intact crown is a rarity in the history of life," Gastaldo says.

"Having the crown leaves attached to a trunk, by itself, begs the questions what kind of plant is it, how is that plant organized, And is it some form that continues to the present, or is it outside of the 'normal' concept of a tree? All of these questions, and more, led to this multi-year endeavor."

The researchers report that the tree likely relied on its unusual growth form to maximize the amount of light it could capture and reduce its competition with other plants on the ground.

They suggest that the tree now represents the earliest evidence of smaller trees growing beneath a taller forest canopy.

It means that plant life in the Early Carboniferous period was more complex than expected, suggesting Sanfordiacaulis lived at a time when plants were "experimenting" with a variety of possible forms or architectures.

"The history of life on land consists of plants and animals that are unlike any of those that live at the present," Gastaldo says. "Evolutionary mechanisms operating in the deep past resulted in organisms that successfully lived over long periods of time, but their shapes, forms, growth architectures, and life histories undertook different trajectories and strategies. Rare and unusual fossils, such as the New Brunswick tree, is but one example of what colonized our planet but was an unsuccessful experiment."
Technical details appear in the abstract and introduction to the team's paper in the Cell Press journal, Current Biology:
  • Extensively preserved, ∼350 Ma trunk with protracted crown morphology
  • Early Carboniferous growth architecture presages modern fern lineages
  • Densely arrayed compound leaves provide expansive photosynthetic surface and cover
  • Fossils preserved as a consequence of earthquake-induced burial in ancient rift lake


The evolution of arborescence in Devonian plants, followed by their architectural radiation in the Carboniferous, is a transition fundamental to Earth-system processes and ecological development. However, this evolutionary transition in trees is based on preserved trunks, of which only a few known specimens possess crowns. We describe Mississippian-aged (Tournaisian) trees with a unique three-dimensional crown morphology from New Brunswick, Canada. The trees were preserved by earthquake-induced, catastrophic burial of lake-margin vegetation. The tree architecture consists of an unbranched, 16-cm-diameter trunk with compound leaves arranged in spirals of ∼13 and compressed into ∼14 cm of vertical trunk length. Compound leaves in the upper ∼0.75 m of the trunk measure >1.75 m in length and preserve alternately arranged secondary laterals beginning at 0.5 m from the trunk; the area below the trunk bears only persistent leaf bases. The principal specimen lacks either apical or basal sections, although an apex is preserved in another. Apically, the leaves become less relaxed toward horizontal and are borne straight at an acute angle at the crown. The compact leaf organization and leaf length created a crown volume of >20–30 m3. This growth strategy likely maximized light interception and reduced resource competition from groundcover. From their growth morphology, canopy size, and volume, we propose that these fossils represent the earliest evidence of arborescent subcanopy-tiering. Moreover, although systematically unresolved, this specimen shows that Early Carboniferous vegetation was more complex than realized, signaling that it was a time of experimental, possibly transitional and varied, growth architectures.


Trees (e.g., Wattieza/Eospermatopteris1; hereafter, Wattieza) first appear in the Mid-Devonian ∼393–383 Ma,2 although modern woody trees, typified by Archaeopteris, don’t appear until about 10 million years later.2 Evidence of arborescence is based primarily on mudcast, sandcast, or permineralized stumps or extensive rooting structures in paleosols (fossilized soils3). Under unique preservational circumstances, these early trees were fossilized with rooting-and-crown structures attached to their trunks.1,4 Permineralized boles of varying dimensions are common in the fossil record following the production of extensive secondary xylem and wood evolution. Yet, the number of examples remains low, restricted to a few dozen transported logs spanning tens of millions of years. As with logs found in recent woody accumulations,5,6 these trunks generally lack bases and/or rootstocks and are without canopies.

Intact trees remain rare in the Paleozoic record until their preservation in peat-forming forests of the latest Early Carboniferous (Serpukhovian7). At ∼350 Ma, trees become more common as stumps with intact rooting structures,8 or trunks buried in situ to heights of 5–7 m with rooting structures9 or canopy branches.10 Growth architectures of these taxa, assigned to spore-bearing (e.g., lycophytes, pteridophytes, and equisetaleans) and seed-bearing (gymnosperm) groups across the systematic spectrum, are well documented11 and form the basis for Late Paleozoic forest reconstructions. However, prior discussions of Tournaisian species diversity12,13,14 have not focused on floral architecture and broader ecological structure, and it remains unclear how these have been conceived. Therefore, although tree-growth architectures of the Middle-Late Devonian are bookended by Late Carboniferous taxa, there is a dearth of data from Mississippian specimens about tree-growth architecture (e.g., Pitus and Protopitys) and ecosystem structure.

We present a new tree-crown architecture based on exceptional three-dimensional specimens from a Tournaisian (∼359–347 Ma) rift lake in New Brunswick, Canada. These fossils display an extraordinarily dense spiral-branching pattern and produced long, functional, compound leaves retained along a narrow trunk, resulting in a tree-crown volume of >20–30 m3. The scale of this plant’s form indicates a growth strategy of maximizing light interception and reducing resource competition from ground cover. From the trunk-and-canopy dimensions at the time of burial, the plant’s stature conforms to that of a subcanopy element.
Figure 1 Sanford Quarry locality, New Brunswick, Canada
(A) Geologic map of Upper Devonian-Lower Carboniferous strata exposed around Norton (red dot) and the Sanford Quarry (yellow star; N 45.627786°, W 65.691610°). Scale in km. Inset: Canadian Maritime Provinces.
(B) August 2023 quarry exposure where white arrow shows the location of primary tree crown. M. Stimson (yellow ellipse) for scale.
Figure 2 Tournaisian tree with spirally arranged compound leaves
(A) Block surface showing contorted (decayed) leaf bases on lower trunk and upper trunk encircled with near-perpendicularly oriented petioles. Yellow rectangle counterpart in (D). NBM 22403/1. Scale in cm and inches.
(B) Metashape model using field images of uppermost 20+ cm of NBM 23141 with preserved tree apex. Petiolar orientation ranges from ∼45° below the apex to ∼30° at the apical terminus. All leaves are incomplete. Scale in cm and inches.
(C) Lateral oblique view of curated block where a surficial trunk (double arrow line) is surrounded by petioles (L) preserved on multiple layers, demonstrating 3D preservation. NBM 22403/1. Scale in cm and inches.
(D) Tangential longitudinal surface of sectioned and polished counterpart (Figure 4A) showing petiolar density and disposition (white arrows) along a 36 cm interval. Here, petioles are either partially mudcast or without mud-fill and outlined in, or identified by, a calcite envelope in response to decay and cation interaction after burial. Red arrow points toward apex. Scale in cm/mm. NBM 22403/3.
Figure 3 Trunk and petiole features. NBM 22403/1 (A) An ∼40 cm interval showing helically arranged, mudcast petiole bases in an estimated 1/13 phyllotaxy with coalified and mudcast petioles departing side of the trunk. Scale in cm and mm.
(B) Finely striated and adaxially grooved petioles diverge ∼90° to the trunk (white arrows) beneath the apex; petioles are without secondaries. Scale in cm/mm.
(C) Petioles diverge from trunk at ∼90° angle. Scale in cm and mm.
(D) Divergence of petioles in dimensions reflecting their spiral arrangement. Strong longitudinal ridges mirror the petiole cross-sectional geometry, and striated petioles may exhibit transverse markings, similar to coal cleat, from tectonism. Scale in cm and mm.
Figure 4 Trunk and petiolar features
(A) Trunk and basal parts of leaves (right; NBM 22403/1) with adjacent block showing their continuation, indicating that leaves were longer than shown on main block. The counterpart removed and sectioned in Figure 2D originates from the upper right (NBM 22403/2). Scale in cm and inches. NBM 22403-3.
(B) Petiole cross-sections proximal to the trunk exhibiting a heart-shaped geometry with an adaxial depression appearing as a longitudinal furrow in compressions. Scale in mm. NBM 23142.
(C) Mudcast petiole proximal to the trunk showing adaxial groove and fine striations. NBM 22403/2. Scale in cm and mm.
Figure 5Evidence of compound leaves and pinnules. NBM 22403/2
(A) Portions of two leaves in close spatial proximity. Arrows indicate bases of second-order laterals departing from upper axis. Scale in cm and mm.
(B) Petiole/rachis detail showing fine striations and adaxial groove (top). Scale in mm.
(C) Leaf rachis with white arrow indicating departure of another lateral. Scale in mm.
(D) Longer second-order lateral departing from rachis. Scale in cm and mm.
(E) Isolated rachis on large block with second- and third-order laterals. Scale in cm and mm.
Figure 7 Actual and reconstructed tree heights and biostratigraphic ranges of Middle Devonian to Pennsylvanian trees
Plants depicted based on fossils preserved with either trunks, trunks with attached crowns, or forest elements buried in growth position. Plant reconstructions are Cladoxylales: Calamophyton,4 Pseudosporochnus,27 and Eospermatopteris/Wattieza1; Progymnosperms: Callixylon,2,28,29 Pitus,30 and Protopitys31; Ferns: Megaphyton32 and Psaronius33; Gymnosperms: Elkinsia,34 Medullosa,35 and Alethopteris zeilleri36; Lycophytes: Lepidodendron sp., L. lycopodioides, and Lepidophloios hallii10; and Equisetales: Arthropitys bistrata.37 Horizontal scale in meters; log10 vertical scale. Plants arranged in chronostratigraphic order according to geologic intervals in which they are reported. Trees that colonized landscapes at two successive geologic intervals are shown as overlapping the time scale. Hence, Callixylon and Pitus are known from both the Late Devonian and Early Mississippian; Medullosa, Alethopteris, and Psaronius are reported first in the middle Mississippian (Viséan) and continue into the Pennsylvanian. Horizontal scale in 0.5 m; vertical log scale.
This is, as usual, another casual refutation of creationist mythology and so evidence that the creation myth in the Bible is laughable in its naivety, reflecting as it does the stories made up by parochial and ignorant people without the benefit of modern science; a people to whom the world they didn't understand looked as though it ran on magic.

Most of us now know better than that, and those who don't have mostly chosen not to, preferring to remain ignorant and just pretend to be wise, or are too young to know any better.


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ID is not a problem for science; rather science is a problem for ID. This book shows why. It exposes the fallacy of Intelligent Design by showing that, when examined in detail, biological systems are anything but intelligently designed. They show no signs of a plan and are quite ludicrously complex for whatever can be described as a purpose. The Intelligent Design movement relies on almost total ignorance of biological science and seemingly limitless credulity in its target marks. Its only real appeal appears to be to those who find science too difficult or too much trouble to learn yet want their opinions to be regarded as at least as important as those of scientists and experts in their fields.

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