A Cambrian Entoproct

Barentsa discretaThe Cambrian fossil Cotyledion has long been an enigma to classify, having been moved from phylum to phylum. The discovery of around 400 fossils has provided enough information for a new study to move it, with confidence, to the Entoprocta phylum. This is a group of small aquatic animals most notable for the position of their anus – a picture of another entoproct, Barentsa discreta, is to the right. Because they are small and entirely soft-bodied there is only one other confirmed fossil entoproct, from the Jurassic, and so Cotyledion tylodes significantly extends the period the group has existed for.

Jeffrey Tomkins has graced us with an article on this species, called Another Cambrian Discovery Discredits Evolution. His entire argument rests upon the premise that evolution must inexorably increase the complexity of all creatures over time.

The Cambrian geologic system is an enigma for the evolutionary paradigm. If evolution is true, life would have started out simple and then evolved in complexity over time. The Cambrian system is one of the oldest geological layers containing billions of sophisticated fossils, supposedly formed after the Precambrian system. The Precambrian layers contain “simple” single-celled life, but also have jellyfish and annelids (worms).

Jellyfish and worms also seem pretty ‘simple’ to me, but that’s beside the point. While it’s true that any “complex” life form would have to have evolved from simpler ancestors somewhere along the line, there is no reason why even more complex ancestors could not have existed. To put it another way, in the complexity vs time graph below, Tomkins is arguing that for evolution to be true it must follow the dotted line, but there is no reason why something more akin to the solid line could not be the case.

Complexity vs Time

Why is this relevant to our entoproct? According to Tomkins, the fossil is actually more complex than modern examples:

Interestingly, the fossils of C. tylodes also appear to have somewhat more complex features than modern entoprocts. Unlike living entoprocts, the stem and flowerlike feeding cup of the “ancient” version was covered by tiny hardened protuberances (sclerites), and the creatures were much larger.

This is to say, the fossil has the right features to be included in the entoproct phylum – i.e. body plan, though this is a particularly small phylum with only around 150 modern species – but also is larger and has some features that modern entoprocts lack.

What the paper’s authors seem to think happened was that the entoprocts underwent the process of miniaturisation:

If correctly interpreted, this placement of Cotyledion has several novel implications for lophotrochozoans. Although living entoprocts are markedly smaller in adult size than Cotyledion, the size decrease could be taken as a result of miniaturization that is a widespread phenomenon in animals. It is well known that miniaturization involves not only small body size, but also consequent and often dramatic effects of extreme size reduction on anatomy, ecology and life history. Such consequences were well exemplified in Cotyledion.

Cotyledion seems to have been solitary, but many modern entoprocts live in colonies – a lifestyle which requires adaptations of its own, which the fossil seems to lack. You wouldn’t therefore be able to use this fossil to argue for the decay of the fall, so the best Tomkins can do is this:

Clearly, a majority of the fossil record was formed as a result of the year-long global Flood recorded in Genesis, making it one of evolution’s greatest enemies. The original diversity of organisms were created by God to reproduce “after their kind,” which is why fossils like the entoproct are complex, fully formed, and similar to their modern living counterparts.

How he draws many of those conclusions from this story is a mystery – ‘clearly’ indeed.

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