Fire Salamander

Petrified salamander found, as reported in ScienceDaily 3 October 2017, and PeerJ, 2017; 5: e3861 doi: 10.7717/peerj.3861, 3 October 2017.

Scientists from Switzerland and France have studied an “exceptionally preserved” fossil of a salamander named Phosphotriton sigei. The fossil is dated as 35-40 million years old and belongs to the same family as living ‘fire salamanders’. The fossil is incomplete, consisting of the trunk, hip, back leg and part of the tail, but it is not just bones. Its soft tissues are preserved in three dimensions, so that it is “mummified”. According to ScienceDaily, “The newly studied fossil externally looks like a present-day salamander, but it is made of stone”.

The researchers were able to study its internal structure using an x-ray scanning technique known as phase-contrast synchrotron X-ray microtomography. They were able to identify lung, digestive organs, spinal cord, a nerve plexus and pelvic organs. Surprisingly they also identified the remains of a frog in its stomach, indicating its last meal was frog. Living salamanders rarely eat frogs.

The fossil was one of a number of specimens ‘casually’ collected in the 19th century, so researchers do not know the exact site and conditions where it was found, which makes it difficult to explain how it was preserved. In the summary of their report they describe it having been mummified “in a terrestrial karstic environment”. Their report suggests it was rapidly buried in sediment and infiltrated by water containing phosphates and “thus permineralised”. The best source of phosphates in caves today is bat guano.

ScienceDaily, PeerJ

Editorial Comment: A “terrestrial karstic environment” refers to an area of limestone terrain with caves, sinkholes, collapsed ravines and underground streams. Therefore this salamander could have been washed into a limestone cave inhabited by bats.

In order to have preserved such fine detail, the process of mineralisation had to occur rapidly, otherwise the spinal cord and internal organs would not be clearly seen with the scanning process.

The observation that it looks like a present day salamander is a reminder that salamanders have multiplied after their kind, just as Genesis says, irrespective of how old the scientists believe it to be. If this creature had been found alive or freshly dead we suspect it would have been identified as a fire salamander and not given a different genus and species name.

Evidence New vol. 17, No. 19 11 October 2017 Creation Research Australia

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