Originally published in Creation 4, no 2 (June 1981): 31.
How did this jellyfish get fossilized in a sandstone?
This fossil is the fossil of a jellyfish, Mawsonites spriggi to be precise. It was found in the Ediacara fossil reserve of South Australia. It is approximately 125 mm in diameter. All of which raises the question as to how did this jellyfish get fossilized in a sandstone?
Obviously it had to be buried in sand which would later become sandstone and more importantly, it had to be buried in such a manner that its detail was preserved.
A quick look at modern jellyfish show that they are essentially floaters, and therefore at the mercy of water currents (particularly if they are dead). A short walk along a sandy beach after the right wind has been blowing the jellyfish in, shows that they rapidly lose their detail after being flung ashore. A short underwater excursion shows that there are very few dead jellyfish on a sandy floor.
It is also obvious in areas where the water is moving fast enough to move the sand about, it is moving fast enough to shift the jellyfish also, dead or alive.
The normal evolutionary view that fossils are formed by sediments slowly covering up dead animals is completely inapplicable. Unless the jellyfish was in some way radically different from present day jellyfish then it is only possible to postulate that it became a fossil through being rapidly buried, either alive or very very shortly after death.
The fossil does not represent a “trapped still life shot“ of its everyday environs, but a glimpse at an animal that was rapidly segregated from its normal habitat and buried. Such a method of fossilization has a geological description—catastrophic. Such fossils can not be used directly to state how an animal lived, only how it died.