Wikipedia silent on Tiktaalik no longer

posted in: Fossils | 21
Fish to land animal transition illustrated on Wikipedia.
Fish-to-land-animal transition illustrated on Wikipedia. None of these have anything to do with the transition now so the entry for each one needs to be modified.
I wondered here how long it would take for Wikipedia to to be edited to incorporate the latest find of tetrapod footprints in Poland, which have consigned fossils like Tiktaalik to an evolutionary dead end—fossils that have been paraded as evidence for the evolutionary fish-to-tetrapod transion.

Well, on 22 January 2010: I edited the Wikipedia entry for Tiktaalik myself:

Tetrapod footprints found in Poland and reported in Nature in January 2010 were “securely dated” at 18 million years older than Tiktaalik, which means that Tiktaalik cannot be part of the fish-to-legged-animal transition, which is now considered to have occurred at around 400 million years ago. [reference to Nature paper]

All the entries on the other alleged transitions (Panderichthys, Acanthostega, etc.) need to be changed too. I wonder when that might happen.

23 January 2010: Less than one day later, my Wikipedia entry was edited:

Tetrapod footprints found in Poland and reported in Nature in January 2010 were “securely dated” at 10 million years older than the oldest known elpistostegids [reference to Nature paper] (of which Tiktaalik is one) implying that animals like Tiktaalik were “late-surviving relics” possessing features that actually evolved around 400 million years ago. [reference to Nature editorial]

So, Wikipedia can respond quickly. I wonder why nothing was said about the Polish footprints for 16 days but my post was edited in just 12 hours.

Interesting. The 18 million years has been reduced to 10 million so it does not sound much of a problem now, does it? But the fact remains that tetrapods were present at least 18 million years (assuming their evolutionary paradigm, of course) before Tiktaalik, and the entry is about Tiktaalik.

No reference now to Tiktaalik being part of the fish-to-land-animal transition. Evercat, who made the change, said, “‘part of the transition’ is meaningless. Nobody ever claimed Tiktaalik as an actual ancestor of anything.” No one ever claimed it was a transition? Richard Dawkins certainly thought Tiktaalik was an ancestor of something when he described it as “the perfect missing link”. How can he think it is a “link” unless it is the ancestor of something?

All the hype surrounding Tiktaalik certainly gives the the impression it was significant in the transition. In fact, the first paragraph on Wikipedia says, “It [Tiktaalik] is an example from several lines of ancient sarcopterygian fish developing adaptations to the oxygen-poor shallow-water habitats of its time, which led to the evolution of amphibians.” Did that say “led to the evolution of amphibians”? That sounds like Tik-tik was presented as part of the transition to land animals to me.

Or is this just a paleontological word game. Is it more about image than substance? Is the idea to make statements that give the impression that there is evidence but knowing that when pressed on the detail there is an escape clause?

21 Responses

  1. Philip J. Rayment

    I wonder why nothing was said about the Polish footprints for 16 days but my post was edited in just 12 hours.

    Because the editors had trouble trying to explain it without it detracting from the significance of the fossil. How do I know? Because on January 10th, eleven days before you edited it, editor Evercat wrote on the article’s talk page:

    With Tiktaalik being the most important of the fish-tetrapod sequence, we might have to mention the somewhat irritating discovery of apparent tetrapod tracks in sediments 397 years old…

    He gave the Nature reference. So he knew about the discovery, but failed to mention it in the article. And it was “irritating” because? Well, in reply to another editor, he explained that it was “irritating” because

    One needs a fairly nuanced understanding of what a transitional fossil actually is to grasp how a 375 m.y. old fossil can represent a 400 m.y. old evolutionary transition.

    “Nuanced”? What that means is that yes, it is a palaeontological word game. A “transitional” fossil is one that has characteristics that the palaeontologist expects would be in an intermediate/transitional; it doesn’t need to actually be transitional to be considered “transitional”!

  2. Alex Williams

    Descendants need ancestors. Transitional forms do not need nuanced understanding because they are just ordinary organisms in a lineage.

    A recent study of fossilizing chordate decay rates showed that the phylogenetically most informative characters decayed fastest and the plesiomorphic ones were decay resistant: Robert S. Sansom, Sarah E. Gabbott & Mark A. Purnell, Non-random decay of chordate characters causes bias in fossil interpretation, Nature 463:797–800, 2010.

  3. Je Rome

    Simple they do not want contrary evidence or statements made about their precious tiky wiki(pedia). This critter was their best hope for their faith in evolution in years. Even though it was readily shown not to be transitional by us creationists soon after it was made public. So they edit out real science and real information in favor of keeping disproved falsified information. Atheists i deal with on in chan #topix will argue using Tiktaalik like it is their holy grail and nothing can stand against it. When problems are pointed to they just loop back on them self to restate the same they said before.

    Any ways nice simple to understand blog post that im sure will get used in topix soon

    je rome aka nova on ccnet

  4. Phil Uebergang

    I find it interesting that with the Climategate scandal the secular establishment is getting a taste of its own medicine. Could this be a direct result of a now habitual anti-scientific attitude within the cloistered group-think of neo-Darwinism? Sadly, those calling for the return of genuine scientific debate over climate are just as likely to smother any debate on origins. I wonder whether sanity will ever return to mainstream science, or whether science will have to die a bitter death before it could ever be re-established.

  5. jean staune

    Excuse me but what the author said here is non sense
    of course Tiktaalik IS “the perfect missing link”
    suppose we find it in rocks only 100 millions years old… it will just prove us that this missing link have survive 300 millions of years. If there are foot prints 18 millions years before it is the proof that Tiktaalik appear 18 millions years before the actual finding ( and perhaps much more) full stop
    What is important is the structure of Tiktaalik which show it is an intermediate between fish and amphibians exactly as predicted by evolution

  6. Tas Walker

    Hi Jean Staune,
    Comparing structure says nothing about ancestor-descendant relationships. You can arrange spoons according to their structure but that has nothing do do with ancestor-descendant but with design.

  7. Give me a break

    … yet the ever persistent evidence for evolutionary development is there. Evolution does not have a rule that states that an ancestor form must die out immediatly following the emergence of a daughter species. Tiktaalik is a true transitional form and was also a living fossil in its own time. Controversy solved.

  8. Tas Walker

    Hi Give me a break,

    Yep, that is the way it works. New facts mean that you have to keep coming up with new stories to explain the evidence within your evolutionary way of thinking. Unfortunately the really neat transition involving multiple fossils has been messed up. But then something else will come up and that may become more popular in the future. It’s all very subjective, and you need to see that there are other ways of looking at the data. Creationist scientists do the same thing. They develop explanations for the evidence that are consistent with the biblical worldview. Give me a break, give it a try!

  9. Edward Macguire

    re Give Me a break:
    Your comment ‘Evolution does not have a rule that states that an ancestor form must die’ is valid and often ignored. As an example, przewalski’s, the last truly wild horse is thought by some to be representative of the ancestor of domestic horses and other equines. It has 66 chromosomes compared to 64 for modern horses, yet can cross with modern horses producing an animal with 65 chromosomes which is also fertile. Przewalski’s have a dorsal stripe, a shoulder stripe, and light barring in their legs; they are also as difficult to train as zebra. The finding of older tetrapod tracks than the Tiktaalik fossil does not affect the importance of the discovery or it’s validation of evolutionary theory.

  10. Tas Walker

    Hi Edward,

    The przewalski horse is simply descended from the original horse kind and illustrates the limits of evolution (see Resurrecting a ‘prehistoric’ horse). Your comment on Tiktaalik illustrate how evolutionists are unwilling to let go of nice stories after they have been discredited by new evidence, showing how evolutionary theory is a worldview and unfalsifiable.

  11. Edward Macguire

    Tas, Biologists theorized that a fish-like ancestor of amphibians should be found in rocks approximately 400Million years old and Tiktaalik was found in rocks of this age. Tiktaalik may or may not be ancestral to amphibians, but it has characteristics of both amphibians and fish i.e. basic wrist and finger bones, the ability to move the head laterally, evidence of primitive lungs as well as gills. How does the finding of tetrapod tracks older than the Tiktaalik specimen discredit the evolutionary importance of this discovery? If a Tiktaalik specimen older than the tetrapod tracks is discovered someday, would this convince you of the fact of evolution?

  12. Tas Walker

    Hi Edward,

    Yes, evolutionary biologists have an evolutionary story that they use to interpret fossil discoveries. I think a good case can be made that Tiktaalik is a mosaic rather than a transitional form. The features you describe are equally explained, even better explained, as design features.

    How does the finding of the tracks discredit the discovery? Because Tiktaalik has been touted as a perfect intermediary because of its perfect timing. Now, that timing is all upset.

    Would a Tiktaalik specimen older than the tracks convince me? No, because I am aware of how subjective the evolutionary interpretations are, and the fossils are satisfactorily explained within the biblical worldview. Are you aware of how they ‘date’ specimens from different parts of the world? I wouldn’t be surprised if someone produces an ‘older’ Tiktaalik, or even redates the existing specimen older. It’s all about juggling the evidence to get a plausible story consistent with the evolutionary worldview.

    In my article about the Polish tetrapod footprints I listed five possible responses to reconfigure the evolutionary story. There have been two responses that I did not anticipate: 1. ignore the footprint find, 2. claim the ‘transistional’ fossils are still valid, even though the once-perfect timing is now wrong.

  13. Edward Macguire


    I’ve read the links you provide in both your responses and I’m sorry but I don’t find them rigorous or convincing or sometimes even to the point. In the Przewalski resurrection the result may look like a tarpon but will not be genetically tarpon or any more closely related to a tarpon than any other domestic horse. The tetrapod article’s point that finding the footprints invalidated Tiktaalik as a fish to amphibian ancestor is nonsense; Tiktaalik has the anatomical features that evolutionary theory predicted would be found in fossils in rocks of that age; it may be the ancestor, it may be related to the ancestor, it may be an evolutionary dead end. I am interested in both science and religion; I am not an atheist and it is depressing that science is so much better at providing proofs and constructing logical arguments to support their ideas. Someone once said that Darwin’s Origin of species was an exhaustive and exhausting work. It is; Darwin provided every example he could find to support his conjectures, and creationists should copy his approach rather than the simplistic, unary arguments that are often used.

    In a speech, Richard Dawkins one described St.Augustine as ‘a really smart guy’ and I agree with him on this at least. St. Augustine believed in the unity of truth i.e. if reason says one thing and faith another, then the conflict must be resolved. From The Book of Nature he says that theology cannot make claims that don’t square with what we know about the world and that theology must be logically consistent with what scientists can convince us is true in terms of available evidence.

    Christ said ‘There are none so blind as those who will not see’ and I suspect you are among those to whom no amount of evidence will be sufficient. The idea of a world-wide flood or a 6000 year old earth is simply not supported by evidence. Ice cores from Greenland go back a million years; from Antarctica even further. Core samples from lake bottoms in Northern Canada go back to the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. These are facts – you can count the yearly rings yourself and with instruments you can validate the age of the rings with known facts like the rise in use of lead in Rome for sewer and water pipes in the first century being matched by an increase in lead contamination in the layers of that age, for example. The yearly deposits are validated by the surges in various pollen depositions every spring; changes in climate from changes in the amount of dust from the Sahara and other deserts. Ptolemy believed the ancient Greek philosopher’s ideas about a geo-centric universe and constructed a cosmology supporting it which Christian’s supported because it validated the Bible’s teachings. Eventually (albeit after 1400 years or so) problems with the model forced the Church to accept that the earth is not the centre of God’s creation. I think you are following Ptolemy’s road of seeing a goal and constructing a path leading to it instead of finding the most promising path (evidence wise), and seeing where it leads.

  14. Edward Macguire

    Tas, On reading my last post I feel I was not perhaps as polite as I should have been and I would like to apologize.

    Hi Edward, No problem. I thought your post was polite. Tas

  15. Tas Walker

    Hi Edward,

    You said, “The idea of a world-wide flood or a 6000 year old earth is simply not supported by evidence.” Let’s just stick with the Flood for a moment because the two are related. If there is no Flood then we need millions of years to form geology. With the Flood the millions of years are washed away.

    The “evidences” you supply turn out to be a mixture of evidence and interpretation—and the interpretation is based on the assumption that Noah’s Flood never happened. Let’s look:

    1. “Ice cores from Greenland [yes, this is evidence based on observation] go back a million years [this is interpretation based on uniformitarian philosophy].”
    2. “From Antartica [evidence] even more [interpretation, assuming Noah’s Flood never happened].”
    3. “Core samples from lake bottoms in Northern Canada [evidence] go back to the end of the last Ice Age [interpretation, but creationists would agree with this] 10,000 years ago [interpretation based on uniformitarian assumptions].”
    4. “These are facts [they are a mixture of facts and interpretations] – you can count the yearly rings yourself [“yearly” is an assumption. In fact, the rings are not so easy to count in the lower parts of the cores and are highly subjective].”
    5. “Surges in various pollen depositions every spring [this is speculation].”
    6. “changes in climate from the amount of dust from the Sahara and other deserts [this is speculation. it’s a nice story].”

    So the reason why “evidence” does not support a world-wide Flood is because the “evidence” is an interpretation based on assuming there never was a world-wide Flood.

    The question is, if there really was a world-wide Flood then what evidence would you expect to find? What evidence would you look for? I’ve discussed a small part of the answer to this question on this site (see Biblical geological model). The question is discussed on There are thousands of articles dealing with this issue, including many articles dealing with the “evidences” that you presented about “ice cores” and “ice age”. Use the search box to find them.

  16. Edward Macguire

    Tas, for about 20 years I worked as a contractor at an Oceanographic Research Institute (in I.T. not science) where their major function seemed to be to bring as many core samples as possible from the deep ocean, lakes and glaciers, and they had no difficulty in interpreting the stratification and proving to me the yearly layering. I accept that some people are very bound to conventional ideas and the status quo, but not everyone, and in my experience scientists less than most, especially the younger ones. As I was once told – “no one ever won the Nobel prize by saying Darwin was right – prove him wrong, that’s where the money is”. (with emphasis on ‘prove’)

    Leaving that aside, I had a thought this morning, I live in a area with abundant carboniferous – early Permian fossils. Very few rocks here are less than 300 million years old. I have never heard of a dinosaur fossil being found in my province (I’m from Canada) for example. You can’t walk on a beach near here without seeing plant fossils. Amphibian trackways are found less that 20 km’s away and 80 kms away is a UNESCO site where huge fossilized trees protrude from the cliffs and the beach is littered with fossils of trees , ferns, bark impressions etc. Here you are permitted to remove any fossil on the beach but anything in the cliffs is the property of the Crown. Most of the fossils are plants followed by insects then amphibians and small lizards, most of which are found in the trunks of the fossilized trees. The Geological Museum there has fossils of millipedes 2 meters long and dragonflies the size of crows. Insects have no lungs, of course, and their size is limited by the oxygen concentration of the atmosphere. The calculation indicates oxygen levels must have been near 35% for insects of this size to have been found.The current % of oxygen in the atmosphere is about 21% and animals today including humans would not do well in this environment (35% over extended periods causes oxygen toxicity with cell death in the nervous system, blindness etc.). My question is how do you reconcile your belief that humans and these animals co-existed with such different environmental requirements i.e. oxygen levels? Keep in mind the principal of Occam’s Razor. Thanks for your patience.

  17. Tas Walker

    Hi Edward,

    You mention “yearly layering” but “yearly” was not observed. It is an intepretation. Such layers form automatically from sediment depositing from flowing water (see Sea floor sediment provides evidence for a young earth. See “Sediment missing” here and “Not enough mud” here.

    You describe the the Permian fossils near where you live. The fossils, of course are observable facts. However, the age of 300 Ma is an expression of personal belief on the part of the uniformitarian fraternity. The order in the fossil record (of which the “Permian” is a small part) can be explained from the sequence of events during the Flood year.

    You mention an oxygen level of 35% based on calculations. I’m skeptical. It’s likely the oxygen level was different in the pre-Flood world than today, but 35% does not sound right.

  18. Edward Macguire

    A google search for ‘carboniferous oxygen’ will give you many references to oxygen levels and the methodologies used in it’s determination. The references to huge insects during the period is one indication. Wikipedia indicates a size of 70cm for dragonflies of the period which is much larger than the specimen at the museum here. I don’t think your response would qualify as rigorous and have not convinced me that your ideas qualify as a valid alternative theory, but I am not a scientist and have never gone to university except for a couple of calculus summer courses so I’m certainly not qualified to judge. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and thanks for your time.

  19. Ed

    The late carboniferous had the highest oxygen levels in earth history, but 35% is on the high side of the estimates. Doesn’t really matter for the sake of this argument because 30% is a low estimate and modern animals wouldn’t last long at that level either.

  20. Tas Walker

    Hi Edward,

    In reply to your comments submitted on 12, 18 & 25 December 2010.

    You can’t use calculations about past oxygen content as an argument against Noah’s Flood because those calculations are based on assuming the Flood did not happen. It’s circular reasoning.

    They make assumptions about how the various cycles have operated over millions of years and come up with a spike of oxygen concentration reaching 35% during the carboniferous due to “the excessive sediment burial of organic matter.” This is supposedly confirmed by the size of insects found as fossils, but as you say, the high oxygen content would be detrimental to life. It is known that such a high oxygen concentration would lead to spontaneous combustion, as Wikipedia acknowledges when it says “This oxygen level probably increased wildfire activity.”

    However, if we make different assumptions we will get different answers. Within the biblical Flood scenario the sediment and organic matter was buried over a period of months during Noah’s Flood. The oxygen and sulphur cycles would not have been operating normally at that time so the assumptions on which the calculated oxygen content are based are invalid.

    Two other articles about problems with the standard story about Earth’s past oxygen content:
    Air in the balance
    Origin of oxygen more complex than imagined