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Where were the animals at the beginning of the global flood?

Copyright 2003 G.R. Morton This can be freely distributed so long as no changes are made and no charges are made.

Where were the plants and animals at the start of the flood?

What are the predictions of the YEC model with regard to fossils. To me that is an important question. The young-earth paradigm holds that God created the world about 6000 years ago along with all the animals we find both in the fossil record and alive today. Leonard Brand illustrates this view point:

“If Charles Darwin had examined his Bible and compared it with his theory, he would have found that although the Bible doesn't say anything against microevolution and speciation, it clearly states that the major groups of both plants and animals (including fish, birds, reptiles, mammals, human beings, and flowering plants [fruit trees]) were created by the end of creation week. This is definitely not compatible with part of his evolution theory.” Leonard Brand, Faith, Reason, and Earth History, (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1997), p. 94

Since Creation, especially since the Fall, creatures have only gone extinct. New animals have not been created. Many of the original animals on the earth died out during or shortly after the global flood being unable to adapt. AiG says as much about the dinosaurs:

“There is a lack of supporting evidence for any of these events! Instead, creationists suggest that most dinosaurs died as a result of the great flood described in Genesis 6-8. Dinosaur types which were preserved on the ark probably faced severe climate changes following the flood.”

So, what kind of fossil pattern should we expect to see in the geologic record? Partly it depends on where one places the global flood but wherever one places the flood, the pattern of fossils should look like:

Fossil Patterns

The above pattern will work with any taxonomic group. The YEC view has all groups, species etc created at the same time. Thus we should find evidence of grass, grass pollen, trees, etc as early as we find the trilobites.

But what do we find in the fossil record? It looks more like:

Fossil Patterns

To show the problem, I went out and collected data on all the fish genera found in geologic history. Here are what the numbers show:

         total genera  living genera     extinct genera
Cambrian        1           0                 1 
Ordovician      5           0                 5 
Silurian       57           0                57 
Devonian      524           0               524 
Mississippian 163           0               163 
Pennsylvanian 106           0               106 
Permian        86           0               86 
Triassic      175           0               175 
Jurassic      146           5               141 
Cretaceous    340          38               302 
Paleocene     124          53                71 
Eocene        398         157               241 
Oligocene     321         207               114 
Miocene       496         320               176 
Pliocene      416         372                44 
Pleistocene   422         408                14 
Recent       3245        3245                 0

What is obvious is that fish donʼt appear in the geologic column all at once as the young-earth model would predict. They appear gradually, and go extinct. The earliest living fish genera appears in the Jurassic rocks not the Cambrian as would be expected by the young-earth paradigm. Here is a pictorial view of how the fish genera are sorted in the geologic column.

Fish Genera

One other thing which can be seen is the rarity of fossilization of genera. Today there are 3245 genera (the Recent period). The Recent period consists of only the past 10,000 years. Notice that only 12% of todayʼs genera are found as fossils. That number would be smaller if we were discussing species. Fossilization is incomplete and creationist claims that the record is essentially complete are false.

One can also see that as one goes backwards in time (up the list) one can see that fewer and fewer living genera of fish are found in the rocks. Why, in the context of a global flood do fish genera successively appear in the later stages of the flood? If they were on earth at the time of the first fish genera, why werenʼt they buried in the Cambrian with it? It is as if they were not on earth.

There are several reasons to expect some modern fish to have died early in the flood. First, fish have a limited lifespan. Most fish live less than 10 years with a few, like the halibut living 30 years. This means that in the preflood population there would be a significant fraction of old fish, ready to pass on to their reward. If there were 10 billion halibut, 330 million of them would be expected to die from old age during the flood. So during the flood year, normal mortality should have claimed some of the modern fish and the flood should have then buried and fossilized them. Secondly, due to the extreme turbulence of this global cataclysm, some of the fish should have been bonked on the head with rocks, boulders or just simply buried. A geologic column like that found in Oklahoma where 60,000 feet of sedimentary rocks are to be found requires that 164 feet of sediment be deposited each and every day. Surely some tired fish would get caught in such a cataclysm. Yet, as you can see from the above distribution, not a single genera of modern fish is found prior to the Jurassic period. Where were the 3245 modern genera of fish in the early part of the flood? Simply put, their absence is remarkable and clearly contradicts the predictions of the global flood. I want to emphasize that the oldest living genera in the Jurassic do not contain any living SPECIES of fish. The oldest fossil example of a living species of fish is that of a shark which is based upon the occurrence of shark teeth (supposedly diagnostic of each species) and that would show that the oldest living species is an Elfin shark from the Upper Cretaceous. (see~J.R. Norman, A History of Fishes, (New York: A. A. Wyn, 1949), p. 124)

How can a global flood advocate respond to the above distribution of fossil fish in the flood sediments? They could say that the fossil record is incomplete. They could say that the modern fish lived in different habitats from those which were buried earlier in the flood. Or they could say that God created new life after the flood. We will examine these possibilities one by one. Could the fossil record be incomplete? Well, it is, but young-earth creationists often criticize evolutionists for making that claim. Gish wrote:

"Sampling of the fossil record has now been so thorough that appeals to the imperfections in the record are no longer valid." Duane Gish, Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record, (El Cajon: Master Books,1985), p. 42 (Gish makes the identical statement in Evolution: the Fossils say NO! p. 51)

Huse states:

"In time he [Darwin] argued, these connecting links would be found and the critical gaps filled. This convenient excuse, however, no longer offers any refuge for evolutionists." Scott M. Huse, "The Collapse of Evolution," (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), p. 42

So, if the fossil record is complete, then WHERE are the modern fish?

Could the modern fish have lived in a different habitat? Whitcomb and Morris would imply this is one of the main reasons that fish are not found with other animals (Henry M. Morris, Creation and the Modern Christian, (El Cajon, California: Master Book Publishers, 1985), p. 249). Whitcomb and Morris also state that the preflood sea bottoms should have been the first to be buried in the flood followed by the marine environment. So why are the early flood sediments devoid of modern species and genera of fish who HAD TO HAVE OCCUPIED THE VERY SAME PREFLOOD OCEAN! And what about modern species of crabs which live on ocean bottoms but are NOT found in the Cambrian? This obviously presents difficulties to the global flood concept.

Could God have created the new life after the flood? Yes, of course God could have. Of course this would be adding to the Scripture which is warned against in Galatians and Revelations. In other words, there is no evidence from Scripture that God engaged in a massive creation event after the flood.

Fish are not the only group presenting this challenge to the young-earth view point. As one goes back into the past, there are fewer and fewer living species found as fossils. There are NO modern mammalian species found in rocks older than the Miocene. The data is as follows:

Miocene         2 oldest
Pliocene       67 
Pleistocene   282
Recent       4631 species

The two living species found in the Miocene are the carnivore Callorhinus ursinus and the bat, Rhinolophus ferrum-equinum. I have plotted the most recent mammalian species duration in time. The picture below shows the pattern of mammalian species in geologic time except that it doesn't show all the species because Excel won't plot more than 4000 entries. But this clearly shows that the ancient mammals, found in the supposedly flood deposited sediments were different than what we have alive today. This is not a pattern which would be expected in a global flood

Mammal Species

The final implication of the data is that other than these (aggregate 282 species), ALL species found in the fossil record are different from those living today. The number of extinct species found in the various epochs of the Tertiary are:

Paleocene       604 
Eocene         1819 
Oligocene      1282 
Miocene        2988 
Pliocene       1119
Pleistocene     786

The average species is only found in one of these epochs. This implies that the fauna almost entirely turns over with the passing of each epoch. This is another difficulty for the global flood—explaining why different forms are deposited in the various layers, in spite of the fact that most ecozones are represented in each epoch.

On the genus level the numbers of members of extant mammalian genera in the various geological epochs is:

Triassic          4 genera-no living genera 
Jurassic         43 genera-no living genera 
Cretaceous       36 genera-no living genera
Paleocene       213 genera-no living genera 
Eocene          569 genera-3 extant genera 
Oligocene       494 genera 11 extant genera 
Miocene         749 genera 57 extant genera 
Pliocene        762 genera 133 extant genera 
Pleistocene     830 genera 417 extant genera 

This clear trend in the fossil record was used by Lyell to define the epochs of the Tertiary Era:

"The Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene Series were defined by Charles Lyell (1833) on the basis, not of lithology, but of the relative proportions of the living and extinct fossils each contained: Eocene contained 3 percent living species, Miocene 17 percent, and Pliocene 50 to 67 percent."~Don L. Eicher, Geologic Time, (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1976), p. 58

percentage living molluscan species
Pleistocene        90-100 percent
Pliocene            50-90 percent
Miocene             20-40 percent
Oligocene           10-15 percent
Eocene                1-5 percent
Paleocene               0 percent
~John W. Harbaugh, Stratigraphy and the Geologic Time Scale,
(Dubuque: Wm. C. Brown Co. Publishers, 1974), p. 40

If the molluscs had all been on earth from the very beginning, there would be no way Lyell could have defined the periods in that manner.

And what of grass. If God created grass along with the trilobites and dinosaurs, why is there not a single blade of fossilized grass, or fossilized grass pollen (which grass emits prodigiously) to be found earlier than the Eocene?

“New fossils provide the earliest unequivocal evidence of grasses. Spikelets and inflorescence fragments with included pollen from the Paleocene/Eocene Wilcox formation in western Tennessee have a suite of diagnostic characters that limits their affinities to Poaceae Associated vegetative remains are also suggestive of grasses, but are not well enough preserved for an unequivocal identification.” ~ William L. Crepet and Gwen D. Feldman, “The Earliest Remains of Grasses in the Fossil Record,” American Journal of Botany, 78(1991):7: 1010-1014, p. 1010

Where was the grass before this time? What is fascinating is that this is also just prior to the time that the first grass eating animals are found in the fossil record.

“Because Oligocene megafossil remains are the earliest generally accepted evidence of grasses, the major questions about their early evolution may also have significance with regard to the evolution of grasslands, hypsodont mammals, and various insects associated with grasses.” ~ William L. Crepet and Gwen D. Feldman, “The Earliest Remains of Grasses in the Fossil Record,” American Journal of Botany, 78(1991):7: 1010-1014, p. 1010

And interestingly other plants and animals show no evidence of having been on earth throughout the deposition of the geologic column. Oil comes from decayed organic matter, mostly marine organisms, but with traces of chemicals from other organisms. These chemicals are called biomarkers. They are organic molecules which are stable at geologic temperatures which are created by specific organisms and thus the existence of that organism can be determined by finding their biomarker signatures. This is like a detective finding human blood on the walls of a murder scene. In that case the blood can be matched to a given individual. In the case of biomarkers, they can be matched to a given taxonomic group.

When the organic matter is buried, and heated, it turns to oil and is expulsed from the source rock (the place where the organic material was deposited). By examining the oil, we can match the oil back to the source rock and we can see what organismsʼ death were responsible for creating the oil by looking for the biomarkers.

Oil created from Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian rocks have the biomarker for dinoflagellates:

“The occurrence of dinoflagellate-related steranes was also observed in the extracts and kerogen pyrolysates of two additional samples from the Lower Cambrian Buen Formation in North Greenland and the upper Riphean Visingo Beds (lower part) from Sweden. Skiagia and Comasphaeridium, which are present in the Lukati Formation high-fluorescent fraction, are dominant in Greenland sample and could be responsible for the dinosterane and 4[alpha]-methyl-24-ethyl-cholestane liberated from its kerogen.” ~ J. Michael Moldowan and Nina M. Talyzina, “Biogeochemical Evidence for Dinoflagellate Ancestors in the Early Cambrian,” Science, 281(1998):1168-1170, p. 1169

But they lack the biomarkers for land plants, diatoms and angiosperms. The biomarker for land plants is vitrain—a component of coal. Only after the Devonian, when land plants become numerous do we find oil source rocks containing land plants.

And in the Jurassic we find a new biomarker, which matches the rise of the diatoms:

“The biological precursors of 24-norcholoestanes remain unclear, but samples from more than 100 basins provide evidence that 24-norcholestanes show an initial increase above background in Jurassic oils, but they increase dramatically in Cretaceous oils, coincident with diatom evolution. The highest ratios are found in oils and rock extracts from Oligocene or younger marine siliceous source rocks in which the sources were deposited at paleolatitudes greater than 30o N” ~ A. G. Holba et al, “24-norcholestanes as Age-sensitive Molecular Fossils,” Geology 26(1998):783-786, p. 783

I was once in a geochemistry seminar when the teacher, a good friend, claimed that he could tell the difference between a Tertiary oil and all other oils. It was based on Oleanane, a chemical which angiosperms and only angiosperms create. I objected that angiosperms arose in the early Cretaceous. He replied that I was correct but that they were so rare until the very last stage of the Cretaceous that they left no record of oleanane in the rocks until the Maastrichtian (the last epoch of the Cretaceous). Thus he admitted that a few oils containing oleanane would not be Tertiary but 90% would be. His reasoning is based upon this:

“The results of the oleanane analyses are broadly comparable with those found for fossil angiosperm occurrences. The relative concentrations of oleanane to hopane, excluding the unusual Middle Jurassic and Neocomian occurrences, begin low, near the detectable limit of 3% during the Early Cretaceous and steadily increase to a plateau during the latest Cretaceous. Then, during the Tertiary there is a major increase.” J. Michael Moldowan et al, "the Molecular Fossil Record of Oleanane and Its Relation to Angiosperms," Science 265(1994):768-771, p. 769

So, as far as I can see, there is no explanation for this data within the typical creationist interpretive scheme. Why would even the biomarkers of animals be missing in the rocks of the early flood? If all animals were created at the very same time, the biomarkers should be there. My questions for young-earth creationists are these:

What would you tell a student who comes to you and asks how you explain this data?

Why do you think it is that Christian apologists never mention paleontological data at this level of detail? (and if one wants to complain about my use of the word ‘never’ then please tell me where the distribution of the genera of fish are discussed in a young-earth creationist paper)

How do you explain the data within a young- earth creationist framework?

Silence is really unacceptable because your children who go off into science will learn of such things. You better have good, defendable answers or they will reject your viewpoint.

Keywords: Leonard Brand, species, Noah’s Flood, global flood, creationism,dinosaurs,grass pollen, trilobites,fish genera,J. R. Norman,Duane Gish,Scott Huse,Henry Morris,John Whitcomb, Rhinolophus ferrum-equinum,oldest mammalian species, Callorhinus ursinus, appearance of species,Don L. Eicher,John W. Harbaugh, Charles Lyell,mollusks,grass, William L. Crepet, Gwen D. Feldman,petroleum, biomarkers, dinoflagellates, 4[alpha]-methyl-24-ethyl-cholestane, J. Michael Moldowan, Nina M. Talyzina,vitrain, A. G. Holba, oleanane, Maastrichtian, angiosperms, 24-norcholestanes