New research may change conventional thinking on fossil diversity and extinction rates.1 John Alroy, a researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara, and 34 other scientists recently completed a 10-year study on the subject, published in the journal Science.2
Other scientists tend to count just the first and last occurrences of fossils, but Alroy and his colleagues undertook the monumental task of examining the over 280,000 known fossil records, with the help of the extensive and detailed web-based Paleobiology Database. They concluded that earth has experienced only three major extinction periods, instead of the long-held belief that there were five—at the end of the Ordovician, the late Devonian, the end of the Permian, the end of the Triassic, and the end of the Cretaceous—also known as the “Big Five.”
Conventional paleontology held that species recovered and diversified slowly and gradually after a major extinction event. However, this new research contends that species that survived extinction events “diversified” rapidly, only to then level off (stop evolving) for vast periods of time. This does not fit with Darwinian models, which would predict the slow, gradual, continual evolution of species.
The creation model, however, fits Alroy’s conclusions rather well. In this model, there was one—not three—mass extinction event. Those species that survived the catastrophe carried on, retaining their forms and identities, and leaving a record of having leveled off. They never went on to morph into different kinds.
Present research has narrowed earth’s major extinction events from five to three. Future research may well compress those three into one large extinction event coinciding with Genesis chapters 6-9. To date, the only historical event that fits fully with the fossil evidence is the Flood of Noah’s age as documented in the Bible.
- Disproving Conventional Wisdom on Diversity of Marine Fossils and Extinction Rates. Science News. Posted on ScienceDaily.com July 14, 2008, accessed July 15, 2008.
- Alroy, J. et al. 2008. Phanerozoic trends in the global diversity of marine invertebrates. Science. 321: 5885.