Reptiles step back three million years, according to reports in Bristol University News and BBC News 17 October 2007, and Nature, vol. 449, p961, 25 Oct 2007.
Howard Falcon-Lang of the University of Bristol, UK has found a mass of fossilised footprints in the sea cliffs, New Brunswick, Canada. Mike Benton, a colleague from University of Bristol, who helped study the fossils explained, “There were only a few species capable of making prints like this around at the time so we came up with a short-list of suspects. However, the prints showed that the hands had five fingers and scales, sure evidence they were made by reptiles and not amphibians”.
The new fossils have been dated as 315 million years old, which makes them between one and three million years older than the previously known oldest fossil reptiles – bones of a creature named Hylonomus lyelli found in Nova Scotia by William Dawson in 1859.
Falcon-Lang commented, “The new fossils were found in the same general region but at a level in the rock strata almost a kilometre below Dawson’s discovery. Consequently we can be confident the footprints are older than the skeletons. They were preserved when reptiles walked across the muddy bottom of a dry riverbed.”
He also commented to BBC News: “The evolution of reptiles was one of the most important events in the whole history of life. That paved the way for the diverse ecology that we have on our planet today.”
Editorial Comment: The fossils may have been formed when reptiles “walked across a muddy bottom of a dry riverbed,” but that didn’t preserve them. They were preserved by being rapidly buried by another layer of sediment soon after they were made.
The fact that the footprints were found in lower strata than the bones of Hylonomus lyelli doesn’t necessarily make them older than the bones. The work of Guy Berthault has shown flowing water can lay down many different sediment layers at the same time. H
ow ever old the fossils are, all they have proven is that the oldest known reptiles are fully formed reptiles, i.e. separate kinds from other animals, and are no help to the theory of evolution. They fit well into Biblical history, which tells us animals were created as separate kinds, and many of them were wiped out in Noah’s flood
Evidence News 12 December 2007
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