- BBC News: “Bat Fossil Solves Evolution Poser”
A team reporting in Nature describes the Wyoming fossil that answered the question, reversing a widely held view that bats learned to echolocate (that is, using a sonar-like system to track prey) before learning to fly.
A (presumably) extinct variant of a modern-day creature is labeled “primitive” even when there’s evidence it lived side-by-side with “modern-day” kin.
All of today’s thousand-plus species of bat have the ability to echolocate, though some larger bats use it less exclusively, relying instead on other senses. But the new fossil find, Onychonycteris finneyi, is “in a category all on its own,” according to the BBC News report. It differs from existing bats by its large claws, “primitive” wings (though the BBC News report does not identify what is primitive about them), broad tail, and an “underdeveloped” cochlea. The cochlea, part of the inner ear, is what gives bats their ability to echolocate. Thus, the team concluded that this supposedly ancient specimen had the ability to fly but not the ability to echolocate. (Although the “underdevelopment” could have been a malformation specific to this individual, rather than a genus-wide trait.)
Without even looking at any other fossils, we must ask the question: since we already know some present-day bats don’t rely on echolocation, and since we know the new fossil differs in many ways from other bats, could it not be that there was once a unique kind (baramin) of non-echolocating bats that were created at the same time as all other bat kinds? Or, even ignoring this possibility, could it be that this bat merely had a reduced ability to echolocate? After all, it is impossible to determine exactly what capabilities the bat had judging solely from the fossilized remains.
Now comes a twist: in 1960, another bat fossil was unearthed from what evolutionists consider the “same” time: the Early Eocene subepoch, some fifty million years ago. Yet this fossil, Icaronycteris index, is “drastically different” than this more recent find. As is common in evolutionary paleontology, when a (presumably) extinct variant of a modern-day creature is discovered in the fossil record, it is labeled “primitive” even when there’s evidence it lived side-by-side with “modern-day” kin. One wonders, if all humans over seven feet tall died out and some were somehow fossilized, would hypothetical future paleontologists deem them a “primitive” variant relative to the rest of us who aren’t so tall? This is similar to what we see with scientists’ treatment of Neanderthals. Yes, there are morphological differences, but there is no evidence that they were in any way more “primitive.”
And as for the common criticism that creationists start with the conclusion and find evidence to match it, the story includes a question from study coauthor Kevin Seymour, a Royal Ontario Museum paleontologist: “when and how,” the BBC article puts it, “bats made the transition from being terrestrial to flying animals.” Talk about presuppositions!
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