Great sea depths have been hiding an ancient creature. Is it Leviathan?
No, it’s not Leviathan, but rather seaweed—two types of seaweed, to be specific, that scientists have found growing more than 650 ft (200m) underwater. That’s “certainly deep for a photosynthetic organism,” emphasizes California State University–Fresno biologist Frederick Zechman, one of the researchers involved in the research.
Although the seaweed had already been identified, its genetic makeup was unknown until Zechman’s team collected samples from both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for testing. The team hoped to place the mysterious algae within the tree of evolution—but it was in for a surprise.
DNA analysis turned up two unexpected results. First, it appears the algae is not closely related to any of its expected evolutionary kin, but is instead biologically distinct. Second, the genes are so unique that the scientists consider the algae to be extremely ancient—perhaps a billion years old or more. “These green algae are among the earliest . . . if not the earliest diverging lineage of green plants,” Zechman explains.
The team has therefore dubbed the algae a “living fossil” even though it is not known from the fossil record. The alternative, creationist explanation is that the tree of evolution is a flawed model of biological origins, because not all organisms are genetically related—life is more like an “orchard” than a tree. Distinct forms of life most likely represent unique creations of God during Creation Week, not “primitive” or “ancient” life-forms. Furthermore, if the evolutionists were right that the algae are living fossils, it would merely be another case of an organism having changed little in hundreds of millions of years.
No, the “alien planet” isn’t home to alien life (as far as we know); according to astronomers, the planet itself is a veritable outsider in not only its own solar system, but in our entire galaxy.
The planet, over two-thousand light-years from earth, circles a star known as HIP 13044. At least the size of Jupiter, the planet was discovered by astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and the European Space Agency who noticed a puzzling 16-day fluctuation in HIP 13044’s velocity relative to our own solar system. From that, they inferred the existence of a planet orbiting the star.
What’s strange about this planet is that it’s in the wrong place, apparently. HIP 13044 is a metal-poor star, with only about one-hundredth as much metal (used in a broad sense to mean heavy elements) as our own sun. Evolutionary views of planet formation postulate that stellar metal is crucial for planet formation, and thus requires stars with plenty of metal—not stars like HIP 13044. So where did the planet come from?
HIP 13044 is located amid a band of stars in our galaxy called the Helmi stream. The stars supposedly originated in another galaxy, having joined the Milky Way when the two galaxies collided between six and nine billion years ago. Given this background, the team has suggested that HIP 13044’s planet—and perhaps the star itself—isn’t from our galaxy at all, and the two became acquainted long after they first formed. “The claim that it’s extragalactic is kind of a guess,” NASA’s Steven Pravdo admits, though he said the idea is “a nice possibility.”
According to Rice University astronomer Christopher Johns-Krull, the planet disputes the idea of gradual, evolutionary planet formation. “This planet says, maybe that’s not right,” he notes, suggesting a more violent process is responsible instead. Either way, HIP 13044’s unexpected planet stands in sharp contrast to standard, naturalistic models of planet formation and shows one of the problems in an evolutionary view of astronomy.
No doubt many News to Note readers ate cranberries this week, as the small fruit plays a big role in the traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner in the United States. So should we have given thanks to evolution for the cranberry?
From its bitter taste to its ability to float, the cranberry isn’t your average fruit. Inside Science News Service offers a look at what makes the cranberry special—and commercially popular. But if the report is to be believed, the cranberry’s uniqueness is all the work of evolution.
For one thing, cranberries are dispersed quite differently from most fruits, which rely on hungry animals to eat them and spread the seeds as they travel. Instead, cranberries, which grow well in wetlands, rely on water for transportation. According to geneticist Nick Vorsa at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research, this explains why other fruits evolved to produce sugars (to attract animals), while cranberries didn’t have to—leaving them naturally sour and bitter.
Vorsa thinks the evolutionary stimulus came during the most recent ice age, when fewer animals were around to eat the fruit. Selective pressures led to sweeter and sweeter blueberries, for instance, but cranberries grew more acidic. Many years later, the cranberry’s ability to float drove its commercial success because harvesting was relatively straightforward. Cranberry bogs are flooded, and the floating berries are skimmed off the top. The cranberry is also popular for its medical merits, which may trace back to its distinct chemical composition.
So should we thank evolution for cranberries? To the contrary, natural and artificial selection make sense in the biblical worldview. Cranberries did not “evolve” into a more advanced organism; environmental and human pressures may have selected for cranberries with certain characteristics (e.g., better floaters). Easy seed dispersal via water probably meant that there was no selective pressure for sugar production, which other fruits may have experienced. The cranberry, like all fruits, has no doubt seen many changes over time, but it ultimately traces back to God’s creation.
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