Has Evolution Ground to a Stop in Living Fossil Gars?

by Ken Ham on March 28, 2024
Featured in Ken Ham Blog

A recent news item caught my eye. It states that “a biological mechanism can explain [gar’s] status as ‘living fossils.’” Now, the term “living fossil” applies to a creature that, from an evolutionary perspective, supposedly appears in the fossil record millions of years ago yet the same creature is still found living today. Gar fish (which we also have in the large aquarium in the Main Hall at the Creation Museum) are considered to be “living fossils.”

So what was this biological mechanism referred to above, and how was it discovered? The researchers analyzed 1,105 exons (coding regions of DNA) in 481 species of jawed vertebrates and found gars (a type of ray-finned fish) “have the slowest molecular evolution rates.” Keep in mind though that this is based on evolutionary assumptions about their supposed age of splitting off from a common ancestor “100–105 million years ago.” Interestingly, the journal article which describes this stated, “Gars are notable for their low anatomical variation. The earliest fossil gars from the Jurassic are nearly identical to living species.” In other words, gars remain gars.

They then focused in on two species of gar, longnose gars (Lepisosteus osseus) and alligator gars (Atractosteus spatula), and found that they could hybridize and have fertile offspring:

By confirming the existence of fertile, morphologically intermediate hybrids in wild populations of the two extant gar lineages Atractosteus and Lepisosteus, which diverged during the Early Cretaceous, we link the slow rates of molecular evolution in gars with the production of hybrids among species with ancient (>100 million year) common ancestry. Our results show that hybrid viability broadly decreases with older parental divergence times and higher rates of molecular evolution across jawed vertebrates. Consequently, our findings support the hypothesis that low molecular evolutionary rates are coupled with low species diversity and stagnant phenotypic evolution over long stretches of geologic time in living fossil lineages.
This is exactly what we would expect in a biblical worldview—gars are able to reproduce within their kind just as Genesis 1:20–22 states.

So, basically, if you assume that these fish have been around for 100 million years, look the same today, have lower mutation rates than most other animals (or have better DNA repair mechanisms), and are able to hybridize, then they must have slower molecular evolution rates. But what if their lineage doesn’t go back 100 million years, but merely 6,000 years? Then there is no problem with gars being able to hybridize. This is exactly what we would expect in a biblical worldview—gars are able to reproduce within their kind just as Genesis 1:20–22 states.

Lastly, the researchers note that many “living fossils” (coelacanths, lungfishes, and tuataras) do not fit this mold, and they have to postulate other mechanisms for their “slow evolutionary” rates. And Yale University ichthyologist and coauthor Thomas Near noted that they are unsure if gars have DNA repair mechanisms that are extremely efficient. If they don’t, then why the evolutionary stasis if mutations are the principal driver of evolution? Appealing to a lower mutation rate is circular reasoning when you already assume 105 million years of evolution.

Now, it is certainly possible that God created the gar kind with extremely efficient DNA repair mechanisms or created them with a much lower genetic diversity or a slower mutation rate than other fish. But it is just as likely that evolutionary deep-time assumptions simply skew the results (for all animals). Scripture is clear that all land and sea animal kinds were created about 6,000 years ago, and speciation took place over the next few hundred to thousand years (mostly post-flood).

We should not be surprised that gars produce gars, since they were created to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas” (Genesis 1:22).

Get More Answers on Answers News

This item was discussed Monday on Answers News with cohosts Dr. Georgia Purdom, Dr. Tim Chaffey, and Patricia Engler. Answers News is our weekly news program filmed live before a studio audience here at the Creation Museum, broadcast on our Answers in Genesis YouTube channel, and posted to Answers TV. We also covered the following topics:

  • Does marriage promote white supremacy?
  • Are abortion numbers on the rise?
  • Is religion losing influence in public life?
  • And more!

Watch the entire episode of Answers News for March 25, 2024.

Be sure to join us each Monday at 2 p.m. (ET) on YouTube or later that day on Answers TV for Answers News. You won’t want to miss this unique news program that gives science and culture news from a distinctly biblical and Christian perspective.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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