Originally published in Creation 18, no 2 (March 1996): 14-15.
The origin of marine reptiles is a particular problem for evolution, for evolutionists claim that these reptiles have actually gone from the land back into the water.
Evolution theory says that fish evolved into amphibians, and amphibians into reptiles, although the fossil evidence for these transitions is entirely lacking. The origin of marine reptiles is a particular problem for evolution, for evolutionists claim that these reptiles have actually gone from the land back into the water.
We are familiar with marine reptiles such as turtles and crocodiles, but there were other interesting marine reptiles like the mosasaurs, ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. There is some evidence that plesiosaurs may still be living, but the others appear to be extinct.
The ichthyosaurs ('fish lizards') were about six metres long, with a fish-like appearance. Did they really evolve from land reptiles? If we look to the fossil record for clues, the answer has to be a resounding 'No'! Famous palaeontologist Professor Alfred Romer wrote concerning the ichthyosaurs: 'These creatures were extreme in their marine adaptations and their limbs were obviously unfitted for use on land.'1 He pointed out that the ichthyosaurs were 'highly adapted to an aquatic existence' — the evolutionists' way of saying they were perfectly designed for living in the water.
Their eyes and ears were different from those of land reptiles, being ideally suited for underwater seeing and hearing.Their eyes and ears were different from those of land reptiles, being ideally suited for underwater seeing and hearing. Romer assumed that they had evolved from some earlier, less-adapted ancestor, but had to admit the evidence is lacking: 'The peculiarities of ichthyosaur structure would seemingly have required a long time for their development and hence a very early origin for their group, but there are no known Permian reptiles antecedent to them'2 (emphasis added). Even the earliest known ichthyosaur specimens were 'already very highly specialized marine types'.3
Fossils of ichthyosaurs are plentiful. In the mid-nineteenth century, in a slate quarry at Holzmaden, Germany, they were being dug out at the rate of 200 a year. The skeletons were packed into the rocks, many of them in an amazingly good state of preservation, and had obviously been buried in some catastrophe.
Evidence that ichthyosaurs gave birth to live young (as do dolphins, whales, and some sharks) came from fossils of young reptiles preserved inside the skeleton of the adult. In some cases, female ichthyosaurs were fossilized as they were giving birth!
When the first fossils of these marine reptiles were discovered, the single bone in the tail was thought to have been displaced, and fossils were reconstructed with a straight, pointed tail. Later, fossils were found with the skin impression beautifully preserved, and it was realized they had possessed both a dolphin-like dorsal fin, and a shark-like tail, the end of the backbone being naturally curved to support the lower part of the tail!
Commitment to their theory means that evolutionists are faced with a situation they find very difficult to explain — the ichthyosaur's fish-like appearance has to be put down to 'convergence'. This results in evolutionists' taking an amazing leap of faith. Professor Stephen Jay Gould has written concerning the ichthyosaur: 'This sea-going reptile with terrestrial ancestors converged so strongly on fishes that it actually evolved a dorsal fin and tail in just the right place and with just the right hydrological design. The evolution of these forms was all the more remarkable because they evolved from nothing — the ancestral terrestrial reptile had no hump on its back or blade on its tail to act as a precursor'4 (emphasis added).
The claim that the ichthyosaurs evolved from terrestrial reptiles simply does not stand up to scientific examination. There is no sequence of fossils linking them to any creature which was in the process of 'going back to the water'. The oldest ichthyosaur fossils (according to evolutionary dating) are clearly ichthyosaurs. The structure of ichthyosaurs shows wonderful evidence for creative design.
If we simply let the facts speak for themselves, rather than letting preconceived ideas colour our judgment, it seems clear that ichthyosaurs did not evolve from anything, but that they were created to do just what they did — live alongside the other creatures in the sea!
A.S. Romer, Vertebrate Paleontology, University of Chicago Press, 1966, p. 119.
ibid, p. 120.
S.J. Gould, 'A Darwinian Paradox', Natural History, January 1979, p. 40.