Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Time Is Running Out for the Evolution of Multicellular Life

A false-colour image of the recently discovered red algae, courtesy of Stefan Bengtson; CCAL.

Joel Kontinen

Charles Darwin thought that the millions of years he believed in would give him all the time he needed for his theory to get complex creatures from simpler ones.

But recent discoveries are challenging this evolutionary truth. Many kinds of fossils appear way too early, leaving hardly any time for evolution.

And deep time has fatal problems of its own. Radiometric dating often gives too old dates, making the case for Darwinian evolution even more desperate.

New research published in the journal PLOS Biology suggests that the earliest plants resembling red algae are "1.6 million years" old, 0.4 million years older than the previous record-holders.

Scientists at the Swedish Museum of Natural History discovered the fossils “in uniquely well-preserved sedimentary rocks at Chitrakoot in central India.”

Science Daily gives us some details:

The presumed red algae lie embedded in fossil mats of cyanobacteria, called stromatolites, in 1.6 billion-year-old Indian phosphorite. The thread-like forms were discovered first, and when the then doctoral student Therese Sallstedt investigated the stromatolites she found the more complex, fleshy structures. “

Cyanobacteria are a huge problem for evolution. Assumed to be the oldest living fossils, they already had hi-tech technology.

In 2015, an article posted on stated:

have an ingenious system to prepare themselves for the coming daylight when it is dark by setting up a large 'antenna'. This antenna helps them capture light energy in an efficient way, while also providing protection against damage to the photosynthesis mechanism of the bacteria.”

The Science Daily article goes on to say:

The research group was able to look inside the algae with the help of synchrotron-based X-ray tomographic microscopy. Among other things, they have seen regularly recurring platelets in each cell, which they believe are parts of chloroplasts, the organelles within plant cells where photosynthesis takes place. They have also seen distinct and regular structures at the centre of each cell wall, typical of red algae.”

It seems that the more we get to know about fossils, the weaker the case for Darwinian evolution becomes.

Sources: 2015. Blue-green algae efficient in 'harvesting' light (17 December).

PLOS. 2017. World's oldest plant-like fossils show multicellular life appeared earlier than thought. Science Daily. (14 March).