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Bodie Hodge, AiG–U.S., answers a reader’s questions about how animals migrated to different continents after the Flood.
Animals on other continents after the flood: I have personal “assumptions” about how animals ended up on all continents after the flood. However, I want to make sure my arguments are without holes.
I assumed that many animals migrated over the arctic circle over time and that this accounts for the majority of animals in the Western hemisphere. However, I am conflicted with the notion that some animals migrated via flotation or riding on floating objects that ended up drifting to other continents.
What is the stand of AIG on how animals ended up on other continents post-ark-resting on Ararat.
– G. H.
Dear G. H.,
It is nice to hear from you. As animals migrated from the Ark landing site in the mountains of Ararat, they surely took a variety of routes initially (Genesis 8:4, 19).
Obviously, they could progress throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa rather easily, since those areas are connected by land. Of course, they would have had hurdles such as mountains and rivers to go around or cross, among other issues with terrain.1
Of course, these obstacles would not be such a hindrance for birds and other flying creatures. It only took starlings about 100 years to cover the entire North American continent when about 60 were released in New York City in 1890. With this in mind, it probably did not take long for many places to be populated with flying creatures after the Flood. Many birds can transverse great distances over lakes, seas, and oceans.
Some birds and other flying creatures may have lost the ability to fly due to mutations or breeding since the Flood. This could have occurred after migrating long distances. On the farm where I grew up, we had some giant white turkeys. They were so large, awkward, and had such poor feathers that with one look at them you would be able to discern they could never fly. In fact, I’ve thought the same thing when I first saw an emu, kiwi, ostrich, and some others—surely, they could never fly! But is their current look the result of mutations and breeding? It is possible.
We also had wild turkeys where I lived. I often frightened them so that they took flight, and they could fly very well. I once spooked a few turkeys into flight to such a degree that one of them flew immensely high; I could hardly see it! It was much higher than the high-flying vultures that dominated our area. And it flew so far that it was miles before it descended. The giant white turkeys that could never fly resulted from breeding of wild turkeys to be large supermarket specials. Considering this, it is easy to see how other birds may have lost their ability to fly. I would also leave this option open with other flightless birds.
In general, placental animals would move slower than marsupials, which can collect their young (e.g., in pouches) and continue. Many placental animals need to stop and settle for a time to raise their young. But theoretically, great varieties of land animals could have gone to any region of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Still, this doesn’t mean they did.
Some may have migrated to certain areas but not to others. In other instances, some of these animals may have made it to a particular area and became extinct. One objection to this is that we should find fossils of them if they lived in an area, but this is fallacious.2 Paul Taylor states the following regarding this subject on fossils:
But the expectation of such fossils is a presuppositional error. Such an expectation is predicated on the assumption that fossils form gradually and inevitably from animal populations. In fact, fossilization is by no means inevitable. It usually requires sudden, rapid burial. Otherwise the bones would decompose before permineralization. One ought likewise to ask why it is that, despite the fact that millions of bison used to roam the prairies of North America, hardly any bison fossils are found there. Similarly, lion fossils are not found in Israel even though we know that lions once lived there.3
Even recently, researchers have tentatively declared that the West African Black Rhinoceros has gone extinct. However, other rhinoceroses have continued in different areas of Africa and Asia. This is a good example of how a species can die out while another member of the same kind remains in other parts around the world. Could this have happened with other animals?4 Surely it has.
Is it possible that kangaroos made it to Europe and died out? It is possible, and I would leave open such an option. What we do know is that kangaroos have thrived in Australia, where they currently live.
Kangaroos, being marsupials, have a travel advantage over some placental animals. When a marsupial has its young, they can hop into the mother’s pouch, and the mother can continue migrating. In other words, marsupials can travel farther faster than many placentals. This may help explain why marsupials dominated Australia, but more on this in a moment.
But how did they get to Australia? How did animals get to the Americas or remote islands?
Most creationists believe there was an Ice Age.5 If the globe simply cools down, that does not cause an ice age; instead, it causes a cool globe. An ice age requires warmer oceans and cool summers. Here is why: with warmer oceans there is more evaporation, which provides greater accumulation of snow during winter months. With cool summers, it does not heat up enough to melt off the previous winter’s snow accumulation. So during the next winter even more snow layers accumulate, their weight causing the previous winter’s snow layers to compact into ice layers, thus eventually causing an ice age.
Most believe the Ice Age was triggered by the Flood of Noah. The rising magmas, lavas, and hot waters associated with continental plate movements would have caused ocean temperatures to rise. Also, fine ash from volcanic eruptions probably lingered in the upper atmosphere in post-Flood years, which, unlike a greenhouse effect, would reduce the sunlight for cooler summers. So the mechanism for such a rare event was in place due to Genesis 6–8.
It is easily feasible for animals to have walked from Asia to North and South America.But what happens in an ice age? A lot of water is taken out of the ocean and deposited on land, so the ocean level drops. This exposes land bridges. One well-known land bridge was the one that crossed what we call today “the Bering Strait” from Alaska to Russia. So it is easily feasible for animals to have walked from Asia to North and South America.
Other land bridges could also have connected the British Isles to the mainland, Japan to Korea, and potentially Japan to the mainland as well; it is possible that Australia could have been connected to Southeast Asia, although today this route is much deeper and may not have been open as long. That area is known for tectonic activity, and we still see consequences of plate movements from the many earthquakes in Southeast Asia (e.g., consider the earthquake and resultant tsunami in 2004). So the depth today may well be a result of activity since the Flood and Ice Age. But let’s look at this in more detail.
We also need to keep in mind that tectonic activity has been occurring since the time of the Flood, causing earthquakes and other issues, and we have seen examples even today when faults shift—some even cause tsunamis. Two large earthquakes and resultant tsunamis have recently occurred in Eastern Japan in 2011 and Southeast Asia in 2004 that were due to ocean floor shifting.
It is possible that some land bridges sunk or were destroyed by these movements of the earth and ocean floor. Could this be the case with the connection between Australia and Southeast Asia since the time of the Ice Age? It seems to be a bit deeper today than what it likely was many years ago. Also, Scripture often records earthquakes (e.g., Amos 1:1; Matthew 28:2), and we need to keep in mind that many are not felt in other parts of the world—even very large ones! If tectonic activity reduced this bridge so that it wasn’t open as long, this helps explain the following concept.
If this Southeast Asia-Australia land bridge was not in existence for as long as others, like the Bering Strait bridge, that could explain why marsupials dominated the continent. Recall that marsupials travel farther faster compared to some placental animals, which lag behind. Marsupials could have made it across the land bridge during the migratory period, prior to the arrival of most placentals.
This makes much more sense than the common evolutionary model where marsupials evolved in Australia, which can’t explain why marsupials like opossums came to North and South America. The common explanation that Australia and South America were linked is much harder to believe than a short-lived land bridge to Southeast Asia. Furthermore, if South America and Australia were linked (barring any global Flood, as the secularists teach), then why doesn’t South America abound with marsupials?
The Ice Age may also have contributed something else to animal migrations. Generally speaking, reptiles are found in larger numbers and greater varieties in warmer climates, potentially like most dinosaurs, and would not thrive as well in the cold. It makes sense that they strayed from colder areas, died out, or their numbers were at least reduced. It also makes sense that mammals would thrive in colder climates.
Many believe that the post-Flood era has more extreme weather patterns (e.g., colder winters). In line with this, Adam and Eve did not wear clothes originally in the Garden of Eden, and God’s creation was declared to be “very good.” So, hypothetically speaking, it makes sense that people should have been able to fill the earth without much need for clothes, if any. After sin and the curse, things changed, but the continent(s) and arrangements were not affected at the curse (that we know of). So at least the pre-Flood topography was a little closer to a perfect world. The world after the Flood is a demolished remnant of the pre-Flood created continent(s).
Our current arrangements of continents and topography makes some areas colder and some hotter, due to different elevation, latitude, etc. Then there is Antarctica sitting at the South Pole! Many ideal habitats could have been completely eradicated during the Flood, never to be replaced. Insects that grew large in the past now die out by winter in many parts of the world before reaching maturity. Therefore, it is possible that the ones that matured more quickly, although they were smaller, laid their eggs prior to winter, and thus had a better chance of surviving.
Even desertification may have been triggered by changes in the weather. The new conditions could have wiped out populations in those areas or permitted a select few to survive. With variations of creatures after the Flood, they had to find a new niche or die out. The Ice Age and new weather patterns surely helped solidify where they lived and flourished from that time until now.
Could animals have migrated to a part of the world they were previously familiar with (latitude and longitude)? I’ve always wondered this. If a continent ended up at a particular place on the globe, and migratory animals thrived in those former areas before continental movement, is it possible that some attempted to migrate back to that original latitude and longitude? I would leave that option open.
In some cases, animals could have ridden on floating debris to make it to islands or other far-reaching places. Consider tsunamis, hurricanes, or other storms that force animals near coasts to grab onto things for their survival. They may be whisked out to sea only to arrive at another place to make their home.
Let’s not forget another major factor to animal distribution—humans! Humans have been involved since the Flood. In fact, due to the Ark, land animals and birds exist today.
Although rats had already traveled to many parts of the world, by the age of exploration (AD 1400–1800), they were easily distributed around the world in all the European exploits and trade. They were commonplace on most ships and ended up all over the world because men accidentally transported them. Think how many insects were surely taken to various places in the same manner.
Throughout history, people have brought plants and animals to new locations, and those organisms have become permanent populations, interacting with the original creatures. For example, it is claimed that the Romans brought pheasants (members of the chicken kind) to England, and they have since been regular inhabitants of various habitats. In fact, the Romans redistributed organisms from one side of the Roman Empire to the other.6 When I was in Australia and went out to Green Island, I found out that the coconuts that grew there were planted to provide food for shipwrecked people. Horses, wild boars, fallow deer, and wild goats are well-known examples of animals introduced to North America.
The point is that many animals and plants have been redistributed to places all over the world by mankind. Many were pets and went wild (such as dingoes); many were introduced as potential food sources (e.g., pigs), and so on. Imagine how much of this redistribution was done prior to the years when we actually started keeping track!
We know that a host of factors are involved with getting animals to various places. In fact, there are likely options that were not explored in this response.
The Bible gives us a framework in which to interpret this topic even though little is given by way of specifics. When it comes to answering questions like this, it is always best to uphold the Bible as our authority and reject ideas that are inconsistent with God’s Word.
With kindness in Christ,