In two studies recently published in Current Biology, scientists report that echolocation in bats and dolphins is not only similar in behavior, but also is astonishingly similar in its inner workings. On a molecular level, bats and dolphins share the same biological basis for echolocation—which poses a significant riddle for evolutionary explanations.
Generally, when two organisms share an anatomical or genetic feature, evolutionists explain it as the legacy of evolution. For example, humans and chimps are said to have so much in common (both anatomically and genetically) because, evolutionists claim, we descended from a common, ape-like ancestor that had those traits. Likewise, evolutionists frequently use alleged similarities between dinosaur fossils and modern birds to show that the two were evolutionary related.
This form of explanation runs into a wall when a feature is shared by two organisms that couldn’t have inherited the feature from a common ancestor—at least, not according to the evolutionary tree of life. In such cases (for example, the tusks of some mammals), evolutionists refer to the similarity as a case of parallel or “convergent” evolution. They believe similar natural pressures selected for the same mutative adaptations, resulting in the same feature in organisms not closely related (in evolutionary terms).
In the case of echolocation, however, the explanatory power of convergent evolution seems to come up short. Not only do both bats and dolphins echolocate, but the genetic mechanisms and mutations underlying the ability are nearly identical in both animals. Team member Stephen Rossiter of the University of London explained how surprising the discovery was:
“[I]t is generally assumed that most of these so-called convergent traits have arisen by different genes or different mutations. Our study shows that a complex trait—echolocation—has in fact evolved by identical genetic changes in bats and dolphins. We were surprised by the strength of support for convergence between these two groups of mammals and, related to this, by the sheer number of convergent changes in the coding DNA that we found.”
Given the unlikelihood of random mutations leading to sophisticated echolocative abilities just once, we find it beyond belief that both animals evolved the mechanism by chance—and identically, to boot. While some scientists outstretch evolution’s explanatory power with the idea of convergent evolution, creation scientists can appeal to the common Designer, who in wisdom would have repeatedly used design features in ways that confound evolutionists’ attempts at a perfect similarity-based tree of life.
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