In several previous articles at Evolution News (Bechly 2021b,c,d,e, 2022a,b,c,d) I elaborated in great detail on the sudden appearance of flowering plants (angiosperms) in the Lower Cretaceous, which was famously called an “abominable mystery” by Charles Darwin himself. To illustrate these early angiosperms, this Fossil Friday features a photo of a beautifully preserved fossil water lily, Pluricarpellatia peltata (Nymphaeales), from the Lower Cretaceous limestones of the Crato Formation in Northeast Brazil, which I took at a trader collection in Germany many years ago. It was later acquired by the Natural History Museum in Berlin (Mohr et al. 2008).
Not an Easy Read
Now, a seminal new study in the journal Nature Plants by Clark et al. (2023) confirms the discontinuous pattern of appearance of biological novelty in the history of plants. Since the paper is not an easy read but deserves to be widely known, Richard Buggs (professor for botany at Queen Mary University of London) provided on Twitter (now called X) the following very helpful simplified abstract for non-specialists:
This @NaturePlants paper deserves to be widely known, but is not an easy read. Here is my lay interpretation of the abstract:— Prof Richard Buggs (@RJABuggs) September 6, 2023
There are several major types of plants, with different body plans. Some are single celled, others are much more complex. We don’t know how this diversity… pic.twitter.com/sR3xEZBLN0
Buggs (2023) emphasized:
The paper states “The morphological distances … between angiosperms and gymnosperms… are maintained even with the inclusion of fossils”. This upholds “Darwin’s abominable mystery”: the sudden appearance of angiosperm fossils in the Cretaceous with no clear intermediates between them and gymnosperms. I made this point in another tweet and Phil Donoghue FRS, the lead author of the paper responded that this is “surely the greatest conundrum in the whole of palaeontology”.
Full of Conundrums
Well, a distinguished paleontologist like Philip Donoghue certainly should know better. The fossil record is indeed full of such conundrums, as I have extensively documented elsewhere (Bechly 2021a, 2023 Bechly & Meyer 2017). The ubiquitous discontinuities in the fossil record of all periods, all regions, and all groups of organisms do not just represent a conundrum (a riddle to be solved) for Darwinism. Instead, they are conflicting evidence that calls for a better explanation. New fossil evidence contradicting the predictions of Darwinism, and confirming the predictions of intelligent design, is published almost on a weekly basis. Thankfully it provides a lot of ground to cover for our Fossil Friday series.
- Bechly G 2021a. Chapter 31: Does the Fossil Record Demonstrate Darwinian Evolution? pp. 345–356 in: Dembski WA, Luskin C, Holden JM (eds). The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith. Harvest House: Eugene (OR), 656 pp.
- Bechly G 2021b. Darwin’s “Abominable Mystery”: Still Alive and Kicking. Evolution News June 11, 2021. https://evolutionnews.org/2021/06/darwins-abominable-mystery-still-alive-and-kicking/
- Bechly G 2021c. Darwin’s “Abominable Mystery” Is Not Alone: Gaps Everywhere! Evolution News June 12, 2021. https://evolutionnews.org/2021/06/darwins-abominable-mystery-is-not-alone-gaps-everywhere/
- Bechly G 2021d. Darwin’s “Abominable Mystery”: Jurassic Flowering Plants After All? Evolution News June 14, 2021. https://evolutionnews.org/2021/06/darwins-abominable-mystery-jurassic-flowering-plants-after-all/
- Bechly G 2021e. Darwin’s “Abominable Mystery”: Mesozoic Cupules Come to the Rescue? Evolution News June 15, 2021. https://evolutionnews.org/2021/06/darwins-abominable-mystery-mesozoic-cupules-come-to-the-rescue/
- Bechly G 2022a. Fossil Friday: Flowering Plants — Darwin’s Abominable Mystery. Evolution News October 21, 2022. https://evolutionnews.org/2022/10/fossil-friday-flowering-plants-darwins-abominable-mystery/
- Bechly G 2022b. Fossil Friday: Florigerminis, Another Failed Candidate for a Jurassic Flowering Plant. Evolution News November 18, 2022. https://evolutionnews.org/2022/11/fossil-friday-florigerminis-another-failed-candidate-for-a-jurassic-flowering-plant/
- Bechly G 2022c. Fossil Friday: Is Triassic Angiosperm-Like Pollen a Solution to Darwin’s Abominable Mystery? Evolution News December 2, 2022. https://evolutionnews.org/2022/12/fossil-friday-is-triassic-angiosperm-like-pollen-a-solution-to-darwins-abominable-mystery/
- Bechly G 2022d. Educating “Professor Dave” on the Fossil Record and Genetics. Evolution News December 8, 2022. https://evolutionnews.org/2022/12/educating-professor-dave-on-the-fossil-record-and-genetics/
- Bechly G 2023. The Fossil Record. Chapter 7, pp. 75–90 in: Gauger A (ed.). God’s Grandeur. Sophia Institute Press: Manchester (NH), 352 pp.
- Bechly G, Meyer SC 2017. Chapter 10. The Fossil Record and Universal Common Ancestry. pp. 331–361 in: Moreland JP, Meyer SC, Shaw C, Gauger AK, Grudem W (eds). Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Crossway: Wheaton (IL), 1008 pp.
- Buggs R 2023. Mysterious gaps in plant diversity quantified. Ecology & Evolution Community September 8, 2023. https://ecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/mysterious-gaps-in-plant-diversity-quantified
- Clark JW, Hetherington AJ, Morris JL, Pressel S, Duckett JG, Puttick MN, Schneider H, Kenrick P, Wellman CH & Donoghue PCJ 2023. Evolution of phenotypic disparity in the plant kingdom. Nature Plants 9, 1618–1626. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-023-01513-x
- Mohr BAR, Bernardes-de-Oliveira MEC & Taylor DW 2008. Pluricarpellatia, a Nymphaealean Angiosperm from the Lower Cretaceous of Northern Gondwana (Crato Formation, Brazil). Taxon 57(4), 1147–1158. JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27756770