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Marsupials Embryos Develop Differently From “Virtually Every Other Vertebrate”

The 2011 edition of Ken Miller textbook Biology states, “Similar patterns of embryological development provide further evidence that organisms have descended from a common ancestor.” (p. 469) But what happens when supposedly similar types of organisms have very different patterns of embryological development? Would that count as evidence against common ancestry? In fact, researchers are finding striking differences in the development of vertebrates. A recent ScienceDaily release from November 30, 2010, “Marsupial Embryo Jumps Ahead in Development,” states:

Duke University researchers have found that the developmental program executed by the marsupial embryo runs in a different order than the program executed by virtually every other vertebrate animal.

“The limbs are at a different place in the entire timeline,” said Anna Keyte, a postdoctoral biology researcher at Duke who did this work as part of her doctoral dissertation. “They begin development before almost any other structure in the body.”

Biologists have been pursuing the notion that limb development is triggered by other organ systems coming on line first, but this study shows the marsupial’s limbs begin development without such triggers.

Miller’s textbook further states: “the same groups of embryonic cells develop in the same order and in similar patterns to produce many homologous tissues and organs in vertebrates.” (p. 469). Will evolutionists like Miller see these latest findings as quirky data or as evidence that conflicts with his argument for common ancestry? For those of us willing to test common ancestry, it’s clear that this is exactly the sort of data that conflicts with the arguments Miller is presenting to students as evidence for common ancestry.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



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