How The Cambrian Explosion Has Been Amazing

Darwin considered the Cambrian fossils to be a problem for evolution because of their sudden appearance of complexity rather than slow and gradual.  One of which that could disprove evolution entirely. But it was widely believed that eventually answers would come with future science which is a common theme in various explanations of evolution. Well, with future science many more Cambrian fossils have been discovered!

And has it answered questions that plagued Darwin? No! There are attempted explanations of the data (like hyper-evolution) but the pattern of sudden appearance of complex remains.  Animals that have complex digestive systems, eyes, and nervous systems. Precambrian fossils were thought to be the answer to the problem, but the ones discovered there so far have no relationships with animals.

In the Deadwood Formation where it was thought to have formed very slowly, a group of scientists from different countries had discovered exquisitely-preserved crustaceans which they said had a ” surprisingly modern aspect” in the mudstone!

PNAS described it this way…

“The early history of crustaceans is obscured by strong biases in fossil preservation, but a previously overlooked taphonomic mode yields important complementary insights. Here we describe diverse crustacean appendages of Middle and Late Cambrian age from shallow marine mudstones of the Deadwood Formation in western Canada. The fossils occur as flattened and fragmentary carbonaceous cuticles but provide a suite of phylogenetic and ecological data by virtue of their detailed preservation. In addition to an unprecedented range of complex, largely articulated filtering limbs, we identify at least four distinct types of mandible.”

“Together, these fossils provide the earliest evidence for crown-group branchiopods and total-group copepods and ostracods, extending the respective ranges of these clades back from the Devonian, Pennsylvanian, and Ordovician. Detailed similarities with living forms demonstrate the early origins and subsequent conservation of various complex food-handling adaptations, including a directional mandibular asymmetry that has persisted through half a billion years of evolution.”

“At the same time, the Deadwood fossils indicate profound secular changes in crustacean ecology in terms of body size and environmental distribution. The earliest radiation of crustaceans is largely cryptic in the fossil record, but “small carbonaceous fossils” reveal organisms of surprisingly modern aspect operating in an unfamiliar biosphere.”

There were other crustaceans that had been discovered in the Cambrian. Since the fossil record disagrees with the evolutionary timeline of slow and gradual, these scientists pushed back the timeline for example, branchiopods were pushed back 80-100 million years. With the problem of complexity so early in the fossil record, these scientist tried their best to explain differences between modern ones but nevertheless, “direct evidence for sophisticated particle-handling” and represent “the acme of Cambrian differentiation within appendages…” 

In order to reconcile fossil copepods which are larger than modern ones. They suggested that there was a presence of fish with predatory eyes which drove the crustacean size down.  But perhaps they overlooked something, fish fossils were discovered by the Chinese back in 2002-03,  in the early Cambrian!

There biggest problem with these amazing fossils of animals is the fact that with all those complex body parts represented in an early part of the fossil record is how a gradual, unguided evolutionary process would lead to such complex levels of function in such a short period of time, abruptly, with no fossil pathway on how it got there, much earlier than expected.

In a more recent discovery, a new species of filter-feeding marine animal that resembles a tulip was discovered on Mt. Stephen in British Columbia. describes this way…

“Officially named Siphusauctum gregarium, fossils reveal a tulip-shaped creature that is about the length of a dinner knife (approximately 20 centimetres or eight inches) and has a unique filter feeding system.”

“Siphusauctum has a long stem, with a calyx – a bulbous cup-like structure – near the top which encloses an unusual filter feeding system and a gut. The animal is thought to have fed by filtering particles from water actively pumped into its calyx through small holes. The stem ends with a small disc which anchored the animal to the seafloor. Siphusauctum lived in large clusters, as indicated by slabs containing over 65 individual specimens.”

This amazing fully-formed animal, which includes a gut, foot anchor and pump to drive water through its complex and “unusual filter-feeding system” implies a very short time period between the Precambrian and its abrupt appearance.

This is why the Cambrian explosion has been and will continue to be quite amazing. Its data confirms creationism, while evolution the data continues to make predictions and expectations on what the explanation of evolution  is supposed to do rather than the other way around which generally is common with “theories” in science.


4 thoughts on “How The Cambrian Explosion Has Been Amazing

  1. This is why the Cambrian explosion has been and will continue to be quite amazing. Its data confirms creationism . . .

    Creationism can only survive by picking at isolated scraps of data, while ignoring glaring inconsistencies with all other data.

    The 900-kg gorilla of inconsistency in this case is the thousands of independent measurements by dozens of different methods which place the Cambrian explosion at a period from 541 to 488 MILLION YEARS AGO. This is 50,000 times the maximum age of the earth permitted by creationism. Does Michael really believe his readers are stupid enough not to notice?

    . . . . while evolution the [sic] data continues to make predictions and expectations on what the explanation of evolution is supposed to do rather than the other way around which generally is common with “theories” in science.

    Michael has it exactly backward. Scientific predictions can only be made from a theory, by determining what the theory is supposed to do, and then testing whether or not that result is obtained. There are no scientific theories which proceed “the other way around.” None. Michael is abysmally ignorant of how science works, and what its purposes are We wonder where Michael digs up his ridiculous notions about science. Even his fellow creationists know better.

  2. Creationism says: The Cambrian explosion demonstrates our theory. “Advanced” features appear early and persist to the present. We rest our case.
    Science says: The Cambrian explosion presents difficulties for gradual evolution. Let there be research!

    And there was research. Michael must have missed “The Cambrian Conundrum: Early Divergence and Later Ecological Success in the Early History of Animals.”[1]

    Briefly, the Cambrian, which saw the emergence of most of the animal body plans now extant—and some others that have gone extinct—occurred over a period of 53 million years[2] more than 500 million years ago. When we say that “appeared,” we mean that we have so far found at least some fossil evidence of them.

    However, two geologic ages, the Cryogenian and the Ediacaran, stretch back another 340 million years. What Erwin et al. have found is that this period, more than six times as long as the Cambrian itself, saw the divergence of the body plans which only later fossilized into the record. The authors studied a number of different disciplines, including patterns of fossils, molecular diversification, comparative development, and ecological feeding strategies.

    Most importantly, the developmental tool kits that enable the formation of body plans evolved during these earlier, longer periods. That is, a genetic capability for forming body plans[3] was already present when the ecological conditions of the Cambrian provided opportunities for such plans to be adaptive. In addition, complex food chains had established themselves,[4] so that multiple body plans had varying fitness for niches that already existed.

    The seeming abruptness of animal divergence during the Cambrian can thus be explained by the fact that the genetic and ecological conditions for them had developed over a very long period of time. Then, when environmental conditions became favorable, diversification occurred quickly and broadly. In the aut5hors’ words:

    [E]volution is not always relentlessly opportunistic, taking advantage of evolutionary novelties as soon as they arise. Rather, the Cambrian explosion involved the construction of historically unique, and uniquely complex, feedbacks between biological potential and eco-environmental context, including the oxygenation of the ocean’s waters. These feedbacks relied on networks of gene regulatory interaction that were established long before the construction of metazoan ecosystems. Because of this long lag between the origin and eventual ecological dominance of clades, data on taxonomic occurrences alone are insufficient to understand evolutionary dynamics and must be accompanied by data on abundances and ecological impact, in addition to accurate and precise estimates of both evolutionary origin and geological first appearances.


    Finally, Michael may wish to ponder about plants. If abrupt appearance of most or all the major types of animals indicates a creation event, then why do the major types of modern plants appear at different times, hundreds of millions of years apart from each other?[5] Creationists are very good at sweeping under the rug any evidence they don’t like. But it’s still there. If animals were “:created”. suddenly then why not plants? In fact Genesis says they were created all at once. Oops.

    The Cambrian explosion has indeed been amazing. It has shown us some novel features of evolution that we were previously unaware of.

    Which was probably not Michael’s intent.


    [1] Erwin et al., Sci., 334:1091-97 (25 Nov. 2011). The extensive work was performed at the US Natural History Museum, Harvard, Santa Fe Institute (the hotbed of complex-systems theory), Maryland, National University of Ireland, and Dartmouth.

    [2] Quite a long time actual; not all that abrupt. Note that the dates have (recently) been precisely established.

    [3] The biggest innovation was the rise of genes that can regulate the expression of other genes. This includes the homeobox (“hox”) genes, which regulate transcription by preferentially attaching to DNA.

    [4] For example, predation appeared for the first time.

    [5] The Science authors do note that similar “latent capabilities” did appear in plants. However, these events happened several times, at widely spaced intervals.




    12. How does evolution explain the Cambrian explosion of every major
    animal body plan in a single rock system? According to evolutionary age
    assignments, this profusion of forms occured in the lower Cambrian.
    Stephen Jay Gould writes: “…an elegant study, published in 1993, clearly
    restricts this period of phyletic flowering to a mere five million years.”
    (Scientific American, October 1994, p. 89.) Was this enough time for
    evolution to perform all that invention?

  4. How does evolution explain the Cambrian explosion of every major animal body plan in a single rock system? According to evolutionary age assignments, this profusion of forms occured in the lower Cambrian. Stephen Jay Gould writes: “…an elegant study, published in 1993, clearly restricts this period of phyletic flowering to a mere five million years.” (Scientific American, October 1994, p. 89.)

    Davfid should check his facts, because almost everything he said is wrong.[1]

    Although most major animal groups appear first in the fossil records in the Cambrian, not all do.[2]

    The Cambrian period did not last 5 million years—it was 53 million years long—from 541 to 488 Mya.

    Cambrian f0ossils are not all found in a single rock formation. Significant fossils of different phyla have been found in Chenjiang Maotianshan shale (China), the Jince Formastion (Czexh Republic), Burgess shale (British Columbia), the Carrara Formation (Nevada), and the Wheeler formation (Utah), and other locations.[3]


    The big news, of course, is that the sudden appearance of so many phyla is easily explainable.

    First,Cambrian rocks fostered fossilization more than others. Although the earlier Ediacdaran has recently yieldeed up some earlier fossils of ancestors of animals thought to have arisen in the Cambrian. In addition, traces found in earlier formations indicate an ecological web of animals, including predators by some animals of other animals.

    Second, the diversification ofr multicellular animals into different body plans has been shown by other means to have occurred over a much longer period–about 340 million years, rather than the 53 My of the Cambrian alone. As noted in the Virtual Fossil Museum,

    The explosion of external form (the phenotype) in the fossil record is what we see now, but more gradual adaptation was taking place at the molecular level (the genotype). Wang et. al. (1999) for example, recently conducted phylogenetic studies divergences among animal phyla, plants, animals and fungi. These researchers estimated arthropods diverged from more primitive chordates more than 900 million years ago, and Nematodes from that lineage almost 1200 million years ago. . . . .. Finally, they conjecture that the basal animal phyla (Porifera, Cnidaria, Ctenophora) diverged between about 1200 and 1500 million years ago. If their research is valid, at least six major metazoan phyla appeared deep in the Precambrian, hundreds of millions of years before the oldest fossils in the fossil record.

    The recent cvomprehensive research article in Science[4] adds definitive evidence to this theory.


    David should remember that, although we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts. b And that creationists do not hesitate to lie whenever it will advance their cause.


    [1] Yes, he got trhem from a creationist web site. Just one more reason that no one trusts creationists. The date on the site is “2011,” so what they say is not from ignorance, but is rather a lie.

    [2] And the major groups of plants first appear at many different times, hundreds of millions od years apart.

    [3] The Cambrian was not named for any of these locations, but rather from Wales. Canmbrian fossilsw are found in Cambrian rock systems because these were at tyhe bottom of the oceans at the time of the Cambrian periosd. Seems simple enough.

    [3] Erwin, et al. 334:1091-97 (25 Nov. 2011), referenced in my preceding comment.

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