Hundreds of jellyfish fossils!

by David Catchpoole

Article from:
Creation
25(4):32-35
September 2003

journal Geology

Evolutionary stories
The journal Geology carried the story our article comments on. Many observations at this fossil site better support the idea of large-scale flooding and fast sediment build-up. However, in the original article, a ‘slow and gradual’ evolutionary story is offered instead—because it fits with the current reigning evolutionary paradigm?

What a storm it must have been! News reports said that hundreds of giant jellyfish once lived about 500 million years ago, but were ‘stranded by a freakish tide or storm’ on an ancient beach. Sand later buried them, forming fossils.1,2 With many specimens measuring over 50 cm (20 in) across, these are the biggest fossil jellyfish known.

Found in a Wisconsin sandstone quarry, it must have been an extraordinary set of circumstances that preserved them, geologists say, for fossilized impressions of jellyfish, which have no skeleton or other hard parts, are extremely uncommon.3

‘Preservation of a soft-bodied organism is incredibly rare, but a whole deposit of them is like finding your own vein of gold’, said James Hagadorn, one of the paleontologists who reported the find.1,4 Also remarkable is that the rock was sandstone (i.e. the jellyfish were buried in sand which later ‘cemented’ into rock), rather than fine-grained rock like mudstone. In sand, buried jellyfish quickly break down because oxygen readily filters through interconnected air spaces between sand grains, allowing rapid decay. But in fine-grained settings, Dr Hagadorn and his colleagues explain that ‘catastrophic burial and stagnation’ inhibit decay; therefore, jellyfish are more readily preserved. ‘You never get soft bodied preservation in that kind of coarse grain size’, Hagadorn says excitedly.5 ‘When people find a T-rex, that doesn’t excite me that much, because a T-rex has bones and teeth—really easy to fossilize. But to preserve a jellyfish, that’s hard, because it has no hard parts. Something is there we don’t understand.’

Image credit: AP Photo / Reed Saxon

Fossil jellyfish

The fossils that shouldn’t be there
Paleontologist Dr James Hagadorn displays fossilized jellyfish in rock taken from a sandstone quarry in Wisconsin, USA. He suspects that ‘hordes of other fossilized jellies’ await discovery worldwide.

The ‘storm tide’ scenario proposed by James Hagadorn and his colleagues seems at first to explain some of the puzzle. They point out that when jellyfish are stranded on beaches today, they quickly fall prey to scavenging predators such as birds and beach-dwelling crustaceans. So why didn’t scavengers rip into these stranded jellyfish? The answer, say the paleontologists, is that these fossils are over half a billion years old, i.e. they lived before land animals and birds had evolved. New Scientist explained, ‘Because there were not any birds back then, the carcasses remained stranded until they were buried by subsequent storms.’6 So their preservation is attributed to the absence of scavengers and that the jellyfish were buried soon after they were stranded. But note that this ‘explanation’ for the absence of scavengers assumes that evolution is demonstrated fact—which it most certainly isn’t. And these jellyfish fossils certainly don’t support the idea of burial over millions of years either.

The evidence doesn’t fit

A scanned copy (right) of Hagadorn et al.’s Figure 3 on page 149 of Geology journal, February 2002,4,7 gives us a closer look at the evidence and we can determine how well their interpretation fits. The figures reveal a number of puzzles which the ‘multiple storm tide’ scenario does not satisfactorily explain:

A better alternative: smothered in the Flood!

The evidence makes much more sense from a biblical Flood perspective:

So, the evidence fits with the biblical Flood, not with Dr Hagadorn’s storm tide.8 As one science commentator said of stranded jellyfish:

‘Waves and sand destroy their bodies before they can be covered in sediment—essential for the slow process of fossilization.’9

But the long-age uniformitarian idea that the fossils are formed by sediments slowly covering up dead animals does not describe how these jellyfish fossils could have been preserved.

No wonder Charles Darwin, with his uniformitarian thinking, wrote, ‘No organism wholly soft can be preserved.’10

With all these hundreds of jellyfish fossils in a Wisconsin quarry, I wonder what Darwin would say now?

References and notes

  1. Jellyfish horde uncovered after half a billion years, <www.nytimes.com/2002/01/26/science/26FOSS.html>, 5 February 2003. Return to text.
  2. Bridges, A., Rare trove of fossilized jellyfish found in Wisconsin, The Salina Journal, <www.saljournal.com/stories/012602/tec_jelly.html>, 5 February 2003. Return to text.
  3. Past findings of fossilized jellyfish have also been very confronting for evolutionists. See, for example, Fossil jellyfish in Australia, (originally published in Creation 4(2):31, 1981); also Fact Sheet: Ediacara Fauna Fossils, <www.ahc.gov.au/explore/geofossil/ediacara.html>, 24 June 2003. Return to text.
  4. Hagadorn, J.W., Dott, R.H. and Damrow, D., Stranded on a Late Cambrian shoreline: Medusae from central Wisconsin, Geology 30(2):147–150, 2002. Return to text.
  5. Impressions of Ancient Jellyfish, Geotimes, <www.geotimes.org/jan02/WebExtra0130.html>, 12 February 2003. Return to text.
  6. NewScientist.com, Jellyfish jackpot found on fossil beach, <www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991839>, 24 Jan. 2003. Return to text.
  7. Scientific journals require researchers to present not just their interpretations of the evidence but also their evidence (observations / experimental results) from which they have drawn their conclusions. This allows the reader to check that the researcher’s interpretations of the evidence fit with the actual evidence itself. (In contrast, newspapers usually only publish paleontologists’ conclusions, rather than what they actually observed.) Return to text.
  8. There is also another difficulty for evolutionists. These are the biggest-ever fossil jellyfish found, yet they are in Cambrian (‘dated’ at 510 million years) strata—which doesn’t support the ‘big-evolved-from-little’ idea. Return to text.
  9. Clarke, T., Jellies roll back time, Nature Science Update, <www.nature.com/nsu/020128/020128-5.html>, 15 February 2002. Return to text.
  10. Darwin, C., The Origin of Species, first published 1859, quote taken from p. 422 of the 6th Edition, 1872 (reprinted 1902). Return to text.
Jellyfish horde uncovered after half a billion years, <www.nytimes.com/2002/01/26/science/26FOSS.html>, 5 February 2003.
Bridges, A., Rare trove of fossilized jellyfish found in Wisconsin, The Salina Journal, <www.saljournal.com/stories/012602/tec_jelly.html>, 5 February 2003.
Past findings of fossilized jellyfish have also been very confronting for evolutionists. See, for example,
Hagadorn, J.W., Dott, R.H. and Damrow, D., Stranded on a Late Cambrian shoreline: Medusae from central Wisconsin, Geology 30(2):147–150, 2002.
Impressions of Ancient Jellyfish, Geotimes, <www.geotimes.org/jan02/WebExtra0130.html>, 12 February 2003.
NewScientist.com, Jellyfish jackpot found on fossil beach, <www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991839>, 24 Jan. 2003.
Scientific journals require researchers to present not just their interpretations of the evidence but also their evidence (observations / experimental results) from which they have drawn their conclusions. This allows the reader to check that the researcher’s interpretations of the evidence fit with the actual evidence itself. (In contrast, newspapers usually only publish paleontologists’ conclusions, rather than what they actually observed.)
There is also another difficulty for evolutionists. These are the biggest-ever fossil jellyfish found, yet they are in Cambrian (‘dated’ at 510 million years) strata—which doesn’t support the ‘big-evolved-from-little’ idea.
Clarke, T., Jellies roll back time, Nature Science Update, <www.nature.com/nsu/020128/020128-5.html>, 15 February 2002.
Darwin, C., The Origin of Species, first published 1859, quote taken from p. 422 of the 6th Edition, 1872 (reprinted 1902).

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Readers’ comments
Damien S., Australia, 22 May 2013
Evolutionists are so adamant that the Bible is not true that they will come up with any story to explain what has happened, even if that story makes absolutely no sense. The sad part is, so many people believe that nonsense. My first thought when I read the opening paragraph was the flood, but evolutionists have a problem with a global flood because of one reason only, it's in the Bible. It it wasn't in the Bible, they'd probably incorporate a global flood in their story-telling.
Denese K., South Africa, 22 May 2013
An incredibly interesting article regarding a topic I have been wondering about recently. I would agree that a tidal/beach-stranding scenario has to be rejected. There are never ripples left on a beach at low tide. Also, debris (mussels, oysters, seashells) piles up on the drift line - a detail missing from this clearly undersea scenario. Could someone possibly comment on the following: What would be the expected effect (if anything) of the daily high and low tides, both during the flood, and in the recessive stage? What landforms/marine deposits might we expect to see today that are eplained by tidal effect during the flood? Would bands of oyster shells within layers of sedimentary rock fit this scenario? I have hunted through CMI's website, but can find no info on this. Keep up the good work. Denese
Tas Walker responds
Tides would have been one factor that changed relative sea-level during the Flood (there would have been many factors). There is a whole discipline of analysing rocks called sequence stratigraphy, which considers the effects of changing sea levels on the types of rocks and surfaces that we see, especially in seismic sections. One effect of tides would have been that freshly deposited sediments would have been briefly exposed for several hours, and this is used to explain dinosaur tracks and eggs on multiple sedimentary horizons (see Is the K/T the post-Flood boundary?). Mike Oard calls this the BEDS hypothesis (Briefly Exposed Diluvial Sediments). He has discussed this in a few papers that are in the pipeline, as well as in his book "Dinosaur Challenges and Mysteries" and a book soon to be published as an e-book about log mats during the Flood. Tides may also explain the phenomenon of repeated sedimentary deposits (called cyclothems) which are common, especially in coal measures (see Forests that grew on water). Clark and Voss have done preliminary computer simulations on the effect of tides during the Flood, concluding that there could have been amplification effects (see Toward and understanding of the Tidal Fluid Mechanics Associated with the Genesis Flood; in: Procedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, pp. 151–167, 1994.)
Bob S., United States, 22 May 2013
This is a great article. You mention, "But note that this ‘explanation’ for the absence of scavengers assumes that evolution is demonstrated fact—which it most certainly isn’t." However, paradigms/worldviews appear to be reality to those who have them. They are beyond a number of assumptions and beyond even presuppositions (assumptions that have been long accepted and seem like facts). Evolutionism is a complete paradigm/worldview that usually includes paradigms of Naturalism, Materialism, and Uniformitarianism and may include Atheism or Deism. When something conflicts with a person's paradigm/worldview, the person will ignore it as if it doesn't exist. If that fails they will explain it away. For example, they may say: "Yes, but there is a naturalistic explanation for that." When it is far enough outside of the paradigm, it will be like an optical illusion and they won't even be able to perceive it. So, evolutionists really do see everything as evidence for evolution. Here is a shocker. We all have paradigms/worldviews that limit God's power and authority. This is a large part of our sin nature that we inherited and that we also built by standing in the counsel of the ungodly. Note how much of the Bible is devoted to purification of the heart/soul/mind. This is where the real battle is. "As we all, with open [unveiled] faces, beholding as in a glass [mirror], the glory of the Lord, are changed [transfigured] into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Aleksandar K., Croatia, 22 May 2013
What about the decomposition of organic matter? Even if it wasn't scavenged, can an organism stay intact for eons? Are those the "special conditions" that preserved Dr. Schweitzer's T-Rex?
David Catchpoole responds
Note that the dinosaur remains referred to are different from these jellyfish fossils in that the organic matter itself (soft tissue, red blood cells, etc.) was preserved. See our most recent articles on the subject: Dr Schweitzer's latest: DNA and bone cells preserved in dinosaur bone! and Radiocarbon in dino bones.
Marc K., Australia, 24 May 2013
Since bacteria came before jellyfish, according to the Primary Axiom's timeline, wouldn't the former be a scavenger and assist in the decomposition of the body?