Turtles and the Fossil Record

According to the Bible, God created animals to reproduce after their kind. Not surprisingly, this is what we actually observe today and in the fossil record. But, according to evolution, organisms can slowly and gradually evolve into different kinds of organisms. Which worldview is correct?

Consider turtles. Most people would recognize a turtle if they saw one. Turtle shells are quite recognizable, and when we observe the fossil record, we see much of the same. But for evolution to be true, evolutionists need missing links. They need to show a slow, steady progression from a non-turtle to a fully modern turtle. But even if we accept old earth time frames and delve into the distant past, extinct turtles like Allaeochelys (47 million years ago) and Proganochelys (210 mya) still look like turtles.

But what if we go back further? Well, for the last 20 years evolutionists have tried to convince the general public that there’s a wide range of missing links demonstrating a slow, gradual change from lizard to turtle. Some of the candidates they trotted out include hard-to-pronounce names like Odontochelys (220 mya), Eorhynchochelys (230 mya), Pappochelys (240 mya), Claudiosaurus (259 mya), Eunotosaurus (260 mya), and Acerosodontosaurus (260 mya). Sure, the names can be intimidating, but learning about them can help refute evolutionary claims.

Evolutionists have been excited about each of these candidates because they serve a purpose- to influence people into accepting evolution uncritically. But when we take a closer look, these animals are not what they’re claimed to be.

Consider Odontochelys (Greek for “toothed turtle with a half-shell”), which lived 220 mya (million years ago), was discovered in China, and was about 16 inches long. This aptly named turtle excited evolutionists because it has a shell on its belly, but not on its back. Some evolutionists therefore, claimed this was the missing link, an ancestor of modern turtles before they evolved a full shell. However, other scientists disagreed and suggested this turtle was losing its shell- not evolving one, probably because it was adapting to a marine environment. Others claimed it had a “semi-soft” shell. But the damage was done and anyone who wanted to see evolution accepted that interpretation rather than the less sensational, more realistic view, consistent with the Bible and observed in nature.

Next up is Eorhynchochelys (Greek for “dawn-beaked turtle”), which lived 230 mya and was also discovered in China and measured in at over 6 feet long. This animal had a beak similar to a turtles’, but lacked a shell. Evolutionists liked it because they could claim it was evolving into a turtle. But this is problematic because the evolutionary tree isn’t consistent, forcing evolutionists to concede that the line of descent shows ancestral species lacking the same combination of characteristics. According to Nick Fraser from National Museums Scotland, “It shows that early turtle evolution was not a straightforward, step-by-step accumulation of unique traits but was a much more complex series of events that we are only just beginning to unravel.” So much for evolution!

Next, at 240 million years from Germany, is Pappochelys, which means “Grandfather turtle”, but was only about 8 inches long. This animal doesn’t have a fused shell, but evolutionists touted it because it has T-shaped ribs like a turtles’, so they theorize it was evolving a shell. However, more recent peer reviewed studies deny that it’s a close relative of turtles at all. Ouch!

Another candidate offered as transitional is Claudiosaurus (Greek for “lameness lizard), which lived between 259- 252 mya and was 2 feet long, but that relationship has now been rejected by scientists.

As we get to 260 mya, we have Eunotosaurus (Latin for “stout-backed lizard”) from South Africa, which was 12 inches long. This candidate, like Pappochelys, didn’t have a shell, but did have T-shaped ribs, which is why some scientists placed it on the evolutionary line to turtles, even though it lacked other traits associated with turtles. Still other scientists have since placed it among unrelated animal groups, and now peer reviewed studies confirm it’s no longer considered to be related to turtles.

Finally, another candidate from 260 mya and found in Madagascar, measuring at 12 inches is Acerosodontosaurus. Once touted as a missing link to turtles, it is now considered to be an extinct reptile from another genus.

So, as we can see, there’s no clear, undisputed transitional history from non-turtle to turtle. Some have tried to make the case that all the fossils mentioned are evidence for turtle evolution, but the most recent studies say otherwise. We have true, fully formed turtles with shells appearing abruptly in the fossil record dating back to 215 million years ago.

Sadly, most people aren’t going to challenge these evolutionary assumptions, which are commonly accepted without thought or criticism, especially when scientists give non-turtles the Greek name for turtle. But when science does overturn evolutionary dogma, there’s little fanfare.

As a creationist, I disagree with the long age timeframes assigned to these fossils, but, nonetheless, the evidence most closely supports biblical creation, where animals reproduce after their kind. Therefore, the evidence would have to be extraordinary in order to affirm evolution as a legitimate theory. However, there is no such evidence. Biblical creation, I would argue, offers the best explanation for the origin of life and best interpretation of the evidence.

Evolution gets much of its muster from speculation cloaked as “settled science”, even though there’s no such thing as “settled science”, as we can see from the way science backtracks when contrary evidence is presented.

The Bible does tell us that animals will reproduce after their kind. We don’t know exactly what the original created kind of turtles looked like, but so far, based on the fossil record, they had fully formed shells and were recognizable as turtles.


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