How to Read a Biology Article: Cycads

Cycad

While researching living fossil plants, I ran into an article that wasperfect as a lesson text.  Click on the link and it’ll open in a new tab so you can switch back and forth as you read:

Discover Magazine: “Living fossil” cycad plants are actually evolution’s comeback kings

OK, let’s get started!

“[Living fossil] refers to modern species that are uncannily similar to extinct ones.”

When’s the last time you used the word “uncanny” in a sentence?  Here’s the definition in case you forgot, “1. having or seeming to have a supernatural or inexplicable basis; beyond the ordinary or normal; extraordinary.  2. mysterious; arousing superstitious fear or dread; uncomfortably strange.”

Can you think of anything (besides deep sea fish) in the natural world that seems “uncanny” to you? I know creationists aren’t at all surprised to see fossils that look like modern plants and animals.  For me, “wild, mind-blowing, awesome,” and other amazing terms come to mind for God’s creation, but not “inexplicable” or “uncomfortably strange.”

English: Hunstanton Cliffs Cretaceous Period. ...

Hunstanton Cliffs Cretaceous Period. White and Red Chalk on Brown Carstone. Full of fossils but beware, dangerous cliff falls.

[Cycads] first appeared on the planet around 280 million years ago, but they really hit their stride in the Jurassic and Cretaceous period, between 200 and 65 million years ago. But their time would soon be over. Out-competed by flowering plants, and suffering from the decline of their dinosaur polliantors, the cycads started to disappear.

They don’t tell you how they got to these conclusions, but we’ve already studied what makes them believe this story: the fossil record.

Here’s what the earth actually tells us.  The sedimentary layers they’re talking about are labeled “Jurassic” (after the Jura mountains of France and Switzerland) and “Cretaceous” (after Chalk). These layers are found over huge areas of the earth and are assumed to be “between 200 and 65 million years” old by using uniformitarian thinking.

These layers typically are full of specific types of fossils, so they assume those were the only kinds of things living “at that time.”  This is why they have to say things like “dinosaur pollinators.”

cycad

“Today, the cycads are a mere shadow of their former glory. There are just 300 species, commonly thought to have endured since their heyday in the dinosaur era.”

Fits right in with what we believe.  Everything (including people) are mere shadows of our former glory.  Scientists estimate that of all the specialized creatures that have ever lived, only about 1 in 1,000 have offspring still alive today.  We only know about most of them from the fossil record.  Creationists see this is as a tragic sign of the consequences of people’s disobedience and rebellion against God.  Evolutionists see this as something necessary and unavoidable.

This image shows the coding region in a segmen...

“The tree showed that the modern cycad lineages have “long fuses” – most of them arose during the Cretaceous period.”

The article is talking about genetic studies here. I haven’t gotten into the assumptions they make for saying how slowly these things have happened yet.  If fact, this is one of the hot areas of creation research, but there is an article you can check out how quickly we’ve found mice genes can change.

Rake

“The family tree looks like a set of rakes, with long poles representing the deep ancestry of the groups, and several tiny prongs at the end.”

Here we get to the heart of what these plants tell us.  if you look at the genetic variety in cycads, you find something like a “rake.”  In other words, they assume one basic form of this kind of plant quickly branched out into a bunch of varieties.  This is exactly what creationist geneticists have been predicting for every kind of living thing.

Cycad at the royal palace grounds, Laung Praba...

“Several cycad species have very low genetic diversity, as do the insects that pollinate them, like weevils.”

Again, this is something we’ve been saying, too.  Modern creatures usually have much lower genetic diversity than ancient ones did.  You can’t breed a Dalmatian with other Dalmatians and get a Chow, but you could breed an early canine and get both of them plus more variation.

I’m getting long, but these last quotes are too juicy to pass up:

“Modern cycads… retain the basic shape and form of their long-extinct ancestors, but they weren’t around at the same time.

In other words.  Much as they might wish it weren’t so, a cycad is a cycad, just with some variation in form.

Greatly diminished from their Cretaceous prime, they enjoyed a second bout of expansion…  across four continents – Australia, Africa, Asia and central America.

…the cycad comeback was short-lived. No new species have emerged in the last two million years and two thirds of the group are now endangered. It would be wrong to call them living fossils because the “fossils” bit is wrong. Soon, the “living” part may be inaccurate too.”

English: Fossil of Walchia an extinct plant

Fossil of Walchia an extinct plant

All you need to do is take out the time assumptions and you have a very accurate picture of the the state of the whole world.  We are “greatly diminished” and many remaining creatures are on the verge of extinction.  Genetic diversity exploded briefly again right after the bottleneck of the Flood (since God would have hand-picked each survivor for genetics) and has become greatly limited since.

Let the fields and everything in them be happy!
    Let the trees in the forest sing for joy when they see the Lord coming!
    He is coming to rule the world.
He will rule all the nations of the world with justice and fairness.  Psalm 96:12,13 Easy-to-read Version

For more information: Answers in Genesis: Explaining Diversity within Created Kinds

Advertisements

One thought on “How to Read a Biology Article: Cycads

  1. Pingback: Laos: ‘living fossil’ rock rat Laonastes captured alive | Dear Kitty. Some blog

I'd love to hear your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s