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Contradicting Darwinian Gradualism, Earliest Animals Show Complex Parental Behavior

Günter Bechly

Based on the Darwinian narrative, we should expect not only that morphological complexity increases gradually in the fossil record, but we should also expect the same for complex animal behavior. This is because according to Darwinists, “Evolution not only is a gradual process as a matter of fact, but…it has to be gradual if it is to do any explanatory work” (Dawkins 2009). Charles Darwin himself strictly insisted on gradualism and famously quoted the Latin phrase “natura non facit saltus” (“nature does not make jumps”) no fewer than six times in his Origin of Species. He realized that any kind of significant saltational change would imply a miracle-like intelligent intervention.

Therefore, it is a problem for Darwinism if we find evidence that complex behavior, instead of arising gradually, was already present in the oldest animals we know. And indeed, this is exactly what we do find.

Earlier this month the discovery of extended parental care was described for the 520-million-year-old arthropod Fuxianhuia protensa from the Early Cambrian Chengjiang locality in China (Fu et al. 2018). This new discovery made worldwide headlines (Davis 2018, Fox-Skelly 2018, Hugo 2018). It also paralleled two earlier discoveries from a few years ago (Fang 2015, Geggel 2015, Lacerda 2015), which documented brood care in the 508-million-year-old arthropod Waptia from the famous Burgess Shale in Canada (Caron & Vannier 2016), and the discovery of brood care in the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang arthropod Kunmingella douvillei (Duan et al. 2014).

Clearly, complex parental behavior was well established in different groups of the earliest known animals from the Cambrian explosion. This is especially significant because such parental behaviors imply complex morphological innovations as well as correlated changes in the behavior of adult and juvenile organisms. Complex codependent innovations of this nature are virtually impossible without coordinated mutations, which in turn creates a so-called “waiting-time problem.” We know from other examples (e.g., the origin of whales) that the waiting times (calculated with the mathematical apparatus of mainstream population genetics) for such coordinated mutations to originate and spread in a population are far too long to be possibly accommodated by the available windows of time established by the fossil record. Even millions and billions of years are not enough deep time to make the neo-Darwinian process feasible. See a clip here from the documentary Living Waters, in which Richard Sternberg and Paul Nelson discuss the issue:

Fuxianhuia protensa was first described in 1987 from incomplete material and remained for several years a relatively poorly known fossil taxon of controversial affinity. This changed when more complete specimens were discovered that showed the head segmentation and undifferentiated limbs. At first Fuxianhuia was considered a stem-group chelicerate, but modern cladistic analyses usually located this extinct taxon close to the stem of all euarthropods (Wills et al. 1996, Fortey & Thomas 2012). New material and more modern techniques have meanwhile made Fuxianhuia one of the best known fossil organisms.

Not only do we know now the complete external morphology of its body, including its growth pattern over fifteen larval stages (Fu et al. 2018), but also its head segmentation (Chen et al. 1995, Budd 2008), detailed brain structure and nervous system (Ma et al. 2012), its complete cardiovascular system (Ma et al. 2014), its digestive system (Bergström et al. 2008, Fu et al. 2018), and now even details about its brood care behavior (Fu et al. 2018). All these structures are as highly organized as in modern arthropods, even though Fuxianhuia lived 520 million years ago and ranks among the oldest known arthropods and animals.

Where is the gradual transition implied by Darwinian evolution? Complexity of all kinds and on all levels was there from the very beginning, and the fossil history of animal life gives no evidence that it developed over long periods of time in a gradual way with numerous small steps as suggested by Charles Darwin and his modern followers. The fossil record does not support but contradicts the evolutionary narrative.

Literature:

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  • Davis J 2018. “Earliest Evidence of Parental Care Found in 520 Million-Year-Old Fossil.” IFL Science! 06 Mar 2018.
  • Dawkins R 2009. The Greatest Show on Earth. Free Press (Google Books).
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  • Fang J 2015. “Oldest Evidence of Parental Care Discovered in Half-Billion-Year-Old Fossils.” IFL Science! 18 Dec 2015.
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  • Geggel L 2015. “Ancient Mom: Oldest Brood of Preserved Embryos Found.” LiveScience December 21, 2015.
  • Hugo K 2018. 520-million-year-old fossil of Fuxianhuia protensa and four babies is our oldest evidence of parenting. Newsweek 3/6/18.
  • Lacerda J 2015. Oldest example of a caring mother found in Canada. Earth Archives.
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Photo credit: Fuxianhuia protensa, Lower Cambrian Chengjiang Fauna, by Grahbudd [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.