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Abstract: Lönnig on Darwin’s “Abominable Mystery”

Photo credit: Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig.

Editor’s note: Geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig brings to our attention a new publication of his that we highly recommend: “On the Inordinate Amount of ‘Living Fossils’ in the Flowering Plants (Angiospermae).” What follows is the Abstract, in which all emphases have been added by Dr. Lönnig, a distinguished retired scientist from at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Germany. For background, see mathematician Granville Sewell’s recent post, “Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig: An Intelligent Design Pioneer.”

As illustrated for the monocots (virtually the same situation in the dicots1), the figure below shows that Darwin’s “abominable mystery” has become even more “abominable” and “mysterious” during the last 50 (not to speak of the last 150) years. 

Fossil record of the monocot families. On the left (shaded gray), the families known around 1971. Right: The additional orders and families detected during the last ca. 50 years of paleontological research (details in the paper). Figure by Roland Slowik (Dietzenbach), 19 October 2021.2 Geologic time scale according to ChronostratChart2021-05.pdf  

All orders and families of the angiosperms appear abruptly in the fossil record (the same for most lower systematic categories). 

The statement of distinguished paleontologist Otto H. Schindewolf (University of Tübingen) of 1965 has definitely been further corroborated by paleobotany and is all the more evidently true now (see also Eldedge et al. 2005 and discussion in Lönnig 2018, 20193; see also Bechly 20214). 

According to the Darwinian concept, minor racial differences are to be gradually increased to become species traits, and then, by adding more and more small alterations, become generic, family differences, etc. The variety of forms would then increase towards the end of the individual phyla, and there would be the greatest abundance of orders, families and genera, that is to say, differences of a higher degree. The opposite is the case.

A new Bauplan (body plan) of the systematic range of a class or order usually appears absolutely abruptly in the fossil record, without long rows/successions of links that would show us a gradual formation from another order forming its root.5

And, what is more, living fossils are not the exception — as they are usually portrayed in the biological literature — but the rule for a large part of plant and animal families: We are literally surrounded by living fossils: Angiosperms, mammals, birds, and many other organisms. Moreover: “Living fossils are something of an embarrassment to the expectation that evolutionary change is inevitable as time goes by” (Eldredge).


  1. See sample of a series of dicot families in the paper. 
  2. Incidentally, M. E. Collinson, M. C. Boulter and P. L. Homes did not include any figures in their otherwise valuable contribution about the “Magnoliophyta (‘Angiospermae’),” pp. 809-841 in The Fossil Record 2 (edited by M. J. Benton), Chapman and Hall, London 1993. This is in contrast to the other 86 authors, and in my view for not very convincing reasons. As for some questions on the millions of years, cf. http://www.weloennig.de/HumanEvolution.pdf, pp. 27/28
  3. Cf. references in the text of this article.
  4. The Discontinuous Fossil Record Refutes Darwinian Gradualism,” Evolution News.
  5. http://www.weloennig.de/AesIV5.html.