Posts Tagged ‘bat evolution’

The Non-Evolution of Bats

Bats are unique among the animal kingdom, being the only mammals that can fly. The bat family consists of two main groups (fruit-eating megabats and echolocating insectivorous microbats) and over a thousand individual species (they are one of the largest mammal famlies). Aside from sometimes carrying rabies, bats are fairly harmless creatures – except to evolutionists.

The first problem bats present is their ability to fly. The probability of flight evolving separately FOUR TIMES (bats, birds, insects and pterosaurs) is very low. The next problem is the fossil record. Bat fossils have been found, but even the oldest (dated to around 50 million years ago) are annoyingly unchanged. Their skeletons are practically indistinguishable from modern bats. So what have they been doing in the last 50 million years? Surely there have been enough environmental changes to warrant a little evolution?

Of course, evolutionists will probably try to argue that bats are no friend of Creation either, because 500-year-old Noah would have had a hard time running around trying to catch a pair of each of the 1000+ species. But this would be a straw-man argument, because there are probably only two different bat kinds (megabats and microbats) and God would have brought them to Noah.

So, what evidence is there for bat evolution? Quite frankly, none. Bat evolution is a fictional concept with no basis in reality. There is no way, from merely looking at the fossils, that one could arrive at the conclusion that bats evolved.

The “oldest” known bat fossil is Onychonycteris, which is supposed to have lived 52.5 million years ago in Wyoming. It caused quite a stir, because it seemed to answer the question of whether flight or echolocation evolved first. Onychonycteris had fully developed wings, but seemed to lack echolocation. However, a different study suggested that it did indeed possess the ability to echolocate. Part of the confusion is due the fact that the fossil is flattened, making it difficult to determine the bone structure. Also, bear in mind that megabats can’t echolocate either, but that doesn’t make them more primitive than microbats. Their fruit-eating lifestyle just doesn’t require it.

Another difference between Onychonycteris and modern bats is that it had five claws, while modern bats only have two. Evolutionists believe this is because it evolved from some tree-climbing animal (shrews and primates have both been suggested), however it’s just as plausible that the bat itself needed the claws for climbing trees (the length of the arms suggest that this bat didn’t fly as much as other bats).

Until Onychonycteris came along, Icaronycteris (supposed to have lived 52.2 million years ago in North America) was considered the oldest bat. It could echolocate (which means that if echolocation hadn’t evolved yet during Onychonycteris’s time, then it must have evolved during the past 300 000 years, which isn’t nearly long enough for such a complex biological mechanism), and looks almost identical to modern bats. The only real differences are an extra claw, a longer tail (both of which indicate a loss, rather than gain of information in modern bats) and less specialized teeth (this too probably represents a loss of information – the earlier bats would have had the genetic information for a whole range of tooth types, and over time different bat species lost some of this information due to natural selection and became more specialized). Icaronycteris appears to have hung upside down just like modern bats.

Other fossil bats include Archaeoncteris from Germany, Witwatia (a megabat said to have lived 35 million years ago) from Egypt and Palaeochiropteryx, also from Germany and dated to 48 million years ago. None of these bats were substantially different from modern bats.

There are absolutely no fossils documenting the development of flight in bats. All fossil bats had fully functional wings. Of course, the possibility that flight never evolved in the first place doesn’t cross an evolutionist’s mind. But this means they are faced with the problem of no transitional fossils:

“The earliest known bats appear in the fossil record ≈50 million years ago, and they appear suddenly and already possessing the anatomical hallmarks of powered flight (including elongated third, fourth, and fifth forelimb digits).” 1

“Because of the similarity between the forelimb digits of the earliest preserved and modern bats, the fossil record currently can provide little evidence of the evolutionary transitions that led to the elongation of bat forelimb digits and the associated evolution of powered flight in mammals[…]” 1

“The relative length of bat forelimb digits has not changed in 50 million years.” 1

Something as complex as flight would surely take many millions of years to evolve, so shouldn’t there be some fossil evidence of it? The usual excuse given for the scarcity of bat fossils is that “bats have small, light skeletons that do not preserve well. Also, many live in tropical forests, where conditions are usually unfavorable for the formation of fossils. Thus we know little about the early evolution of bats.” 2

In the Creation model most if not all bat fossils were formed during the Flood. It makes sense that there aren’t many bat fossils, because bats can fly and so would be able to escape the flood waters for longer than many other animals, until they eventually died and fell onto the surface of the water, where they could easily rot or be eaten by sea creatures. Many bat fossils have been found with preserved stomach contents, indicating that they died suddenly and were rapidly buried. These were probably bats that got caught in the Flood before they had a chance to fly to safety. In the evolutionary model, it seems odd, if conditions were unfavorable for bats to fossilize, that there would be so many bats with fossilized stomach contents. The only way evolutionists can explain this is “poisonous gas”, which presumably seeped out of a swamp and caused the bats to drop dead into the mud and get fossilized.

Due to the complete lack of evidence documenting bat evolution, scientists are forced to hypothesize about it. The general belief is that bats evolved from a shrew-like creature. After they evolved flight, they developed echolocation as a means of obstacle detection, but eventually used it for hunting as well. When megabats and microbats diverged, megabats started eating fruit instead of insects, and they lost the ability to echolocate.

This is all very well and good in theory, but there are a number of problems. First, there is still a lot of debate surrounding the flight-or-echolocation-first issue (although flight first is usually accepted because of Onychonycteris, and the fact that it is very energy-inefficient to echolocate while stationary). Secondly, some believe that microbats and megabats DON’T share a common ancestor, but evolved separately (which means flight would have had to have evolved FIVE times!). The reason for this hypothesis is that there are certain megabat features that are like those of primates:

“In 1986 Dr. John Pettigrew further proposed that flying foxes most closely resemble primates (Pettigrew p. 1), and that along with flying lemurs who also have their own order but don’t actually fly, they share a common ancestor with the primates.

He based his conclusions on research that showed that primates have unique neural pathways in the brain, having to do with vision, and that these pathways were so unique that it was thought that they distinguish primates from non-primates. Dr. Pettigrew discovered that all flying foxes also have them, […] but that no microbats do. As the flying lemurs also have these pathways, he proposed that they are really all primates, sharing a common ancestor, and that powered flight in bats evolved a second time, later in evolutionary history, only coincidentally resembling that of microbats.

Since then, however, other researchers have challenged his “two-origins” idea (Gibbons p. 34). Studies with mitochondrial DNA have shown that all bats are closely related, and separate from primates. Also, there is a muscle complex in the wings of all bats that is different from birds and all gliding mammals.” 3

To me, the most plausible explanation for the origin of bats is that given in the Bible:

“Then God said, ‘Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.’ So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.” 4

The Hebrew word translated as bird is owph, which more literally means “winged creature” which obviously includes bats. God created them on Day 5 of the Creation Week, complete with flight and echolocation (which would originally have been used for non-predatory purposes, such as obstacle detection) – hence the lack of transitional fossils. Of course, because of their evolutionary worldview, most scientists will never accept this.

Footnotes:

1 Development of bat flight: Morphologic and molecular evolution of bat wing digits, http://www.pnas.org/content/103/17/6581.full
2 Fossil Record of Chiroptera, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/eutheria/chirofr.html
3 Bats and Evolution, http://www.creationism.org/batman/bats.htm
4 Genesis 1:20-23 NKJV

Sources:

The Secret Life of Bats, http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/life/mammals/bats/session1/index.html
Fossil Record of Chiroptera, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/eutheria/chirofr.html
Bats and Evolution, http://www.creationism.org/batman/bats.htm
Researchers battle over bats’ ability to ‘see’, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37156174/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/researchers-battle-over-bats-ability-see/
Development of bat flight: Morphologic and molecular evolution of bat wing digits, http://www.pnas.org/content/103/17/6581.full
Icaronycteris, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icaronycteris
Onychonycteris, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onychonycteris
Archaeonycteris, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeonycteris
Palaeochiropterx, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palaeochiropteryx
Witwatia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witwatia
Bat, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat
Integrated fossil and molecular data reconstruct bat echolocation, http://www.pnas.org/content/98/11/6241.full
Giant Fossil Bats Out Of Africa, 35 Million Years Old, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080304191213.htm
Fossils Reveal Bats That Could Fly But Not Echolocate, http://animals.about.com/b/2008/02/15/onychonycteris-finneyi.htm
Fossilized bat finally gives answer to bat evolution, http://english.pravda.ru/news/science/14-02-2008/104034-bat_evolution-0/
Earliest bat fossil reveals transition to flight, http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2008/02/earliest-bat-fossil-reveals-transition-to-flight.ars
The Origin of Bats, http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/natural_history_2_13.html
Phylogenetic relationships of Icaronycteris, Archaeonycteris, Hassianycteris, and Palaeochiropteryx to extant bat lineages, with comments on the evolution of echolocation and foraging strategies in Microchiroptera, http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/dspace/bitstream/handle/2246/1629//v2/dspace/ingest/pdfSource/bul/B235-0002.pdf?sequence=1
Bats: sophistication in miniature, http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v21/i1/bats.asp
Bat Evolution? – No Transitional Fossils!, http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6003501/bat_evolution_no_transitional_fossils/ (video)
Bat Evolution, http://www.batworlds.com/bat-evolution.html
Bat Evolution, http://www.batconservation.org/drupal/art-bat-evolution
Bat Evolution, http://www.thewildclassroom.com/bats/evolution.html
Primitive Early Eocene bat from Wyoming and the evolution of flight and echolocation, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7180/full/nature06549.html
A bony connection signals laryngeal echolocation in bats, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7283/full/nature08737.html