Paleontologists are always reporting the discovery of a new species of animal in the fossil record. Frequently, these new reports are based on ten or fewer bones and/or teeth. From these remains, they usually describe what kind of animal it is, what it ate, how big or small it was and who or what other animal it is most closely related to. After determining what the animal was they next try to place it on their evolutionary tree.
The classification of the fossil remains usually is determined by morphology of whatever parts are found and the differences or similarities between them and known specimens. But how accurate are their classifications and subsequent character descriptions including diet and habits?
A good example is a family of dinosaurs known as the Ceratopsidae. The most popular member of the Ceratopsidae is the Triceratops. Members of the Ceratopsidae are classified by the size and shape of their beaks, frills and the number, size and shape of the horns on the frills.
Based on these characteristics, the Ceratopsidae are divided into two subfamilies; Centrosaurinae and Ceratopsinae (also known by some as Chasmosaurinae). Depending on the source one uses, the Centrosaurinae consists of around 11 species and one possible new species; and the Ceratopsinae consists of about 19 species and 3 possible new species.
But how accurate are their classifications to begin with?
I like to use domestic dogs to show the problem with fossil identification based upon skeletal remains and the subsequent problem with the evolutionary lineage based upon them. The traditional classification of domestic dogs places all of them in one species, Canis familiaris. Many modern taxonomists are now placing all domestic dogs as a subspecies to the wolf, Canis lupus familiaris.
According the America Kennel Club, there are 168 registered breeds, 10 miscellaneous breeds and 51 Foundation Stock Service breeds, for a total of 229 different breeds of domestic dogs. These breeds of dogs range in size from the tiny Chihuahua weighing less than 6 pounds, to the huge 300+ pound Old English Mastiff. Some dogs are thin, others heavy, some short, other tall, some have long snouts while others have short snouts. The variety found within the domestic dogs is so vast that it should be of great concern to evolutionists.
Take a look at the chart below that contains the skulls of 31 domestic dogs along with the skull of a wolf. Remember that many modern taxonomists place all 32 specimens into a single species.
If you were a paleontologist and discovered some or all of these skulls in the fossil record and had never seen or known of the variation within the dog kind, how would you classify them? Not only would many of them be classified as different species, but some would probably even be considered to be a different genus because of the marked differences. And if the fossil classifications were so different from our modern classification, then how accurate would the evolutionary assumptions of lineage be that are based upon the felonious classification to begin with?
Another issue with fossil identification is sexual dimorphism which can include a difference in size between the sexes. In dogs, this is not an issue, but it is in many other animals. For instance in many animals like gorillas and crocodiles, the males are significantly larger than the females. Note the significant cranial ridges on the skull of the male gorilla that are missing on the female. These differences would probably lead a paleontologist to consider a completely different classification of the two specimens.
In other animals, like many amphibians such as toads, as well as many fish and insects, the female is larger than the male. Without this important bit of information, it would be easy for someone to identify their fossils as different species.
So one would have to wonder how many different fossil species are in reality nothing more than sexual dimorphism within that particular organism? Could one Ceratopsidae having smaller and/or fewer horns and smaller frill than another be nothing more than a sexual difference? Without soft tissue, it is often difficult for one to know.
Between the wide differences within a known species like the dogs and the vast differences that can occur in size and shape between sexes, basic classification of fossils has to be a rather somewhat in-exact science. And if the classification is not accurate or uncertain, it could present a nightmare to evolutionists that stake their reputation on the lineage of one fossil giving rise to another.
As a biblical creationist, it helps to demonstrate the incredible variation that God built into all living things. The more I study the world around us and the myriad of life it contains, I can’t help but sit in awe of our Creator God.
KEY TO DOG SKULLS
1 – Airedale Terrier 2 – English Bulldog
3 – Australian Cattle Dog 4 – Collie
5 – German Shepherd 6 – Labrador Retriever
7 – Pug 8 – Chinese Shar Pei
9 – Chihuahua 10 – Border Collie
11 – Australian Shepherd 12 – Dalmatian
13 – Pekingese 14 – Great Dane
15 – Rottweiler 16 – Shetland Sheepdog
17 – Bassett Hound 18 – Boston Terrier
19 – Chow Chow 20 – Dachshund
21 – Great Pyrenees 22 – Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Pitbull)
23 – Saluki 24 – Shih Tzu
25 – Beagle 26 – Boxer
27 – Cocker Spaniel 28 – French Bulldog
29 – Siberian Husky 30 – Poodle
31 – Schnauzer 32 – Wolf