Many have heard about polystrate tree fossils, the many trunks found standing upright through multiple rock layers. (Poly means many, strata means geological layer). Many polystrate fossils (see the list below) are claimed to have been buried in layers that are alleged to typically form over many thousands or even a million years. Areas noted for polystrate tree fossils include:
- Joggins in Nova Scotia
- Sydney, Nova Scotia (260 miles from Joggins)
- Lancashire in England
- Germany's Ruhr region
- Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone
- St. Etienne in France.
Of course dead organisms cannot stand for thousands of years waiting to be buried. And characteristically such fossils, as with polystrates trees, show no greater erosion at their top than at their base.
* Actual and Theoretical Old-Earth Explanations: Arguments given by old-earthers include:
E1: The layers burying polystrates formed during a "rapid rate of sedimentation" (e.g., river flooding burying growing trees; see this at NSCE, the site of Bob's opponent Eugenie Scott)
E2: Trees don't die and decay instantly, so a polystrate tree remained upright through a sequence of fast sedimentation followed by slow sedimentation (e.g., Talk Origins response suggests an initial burial in sediments of "several feet" followed by continued slower sedimentation or perhaps additional rapid sedimentation events)
E3: The fossilized tree was later implanted vertically through the rock layers
E4: Polystrate fossils are rare and are mostly a creationist exaggeration.
* Kinds of Polystrate Fossils: Upright trees form only one kind of polystrate fossil. Other kinds include:
- polystrate school of jellyfish fossilized across seven layers allegedly deposited over a million-year period
- 171 (awfully persistent dead) tadpoles in diatoms
- fossilized end-to-end leaves standing on edge
- aquatic mesosaur reptile in "annual" varves
- a fossilized whale buried in diatoms
- a fossilized school of whales buried across four strata
- delicate spines radiating through sold rock layers
- nautiloids up to 18 inches in length, thousands buried vertically, for example at the Redwall Limestone which allegedly formed at a rate of about 4,000 years per inch
- a fossilized school of (an allegedly) extinct trout-perch species
- three-dimensional trilobites in limestone
- etc. (every fossil that crosses strata boundaries)
* Creationist Rebuttal of Old-Earth Polystate Explanations: The old-earth explanations are absurd on their face. Typically, they can't explain a single polystrate let alone the scores of different kinds of polystrate fossils and the millions of them in existence.
R1: Old-earthers including secular geologists have an astounding lack of curiosity about which strata layers emtomb polystrate fossils and whether those exact same layers meters or miles away are claimed to have been deposited over thousands or millions of years. Also, as at Yellowstone, their standard explanation is falsified by the fossilized trees' lack of root systems.
R2: Trees can't remain upright for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, and leaves can't remain upright for dozens of years, and schools of fish can't remain frozen in place, all while the allegedly slowly formed strata around them gets deposited layer by layer over years, centuries, millennia, or eons.
R3: No tree, let alone thousands, gets jammed downward through ten feet or more of multiple layers of solid rock, and if any such impossibility did happened it would leave the physical evidence of crushed rock and wood; and in addition to trees, jellyfish, and tadpoles, and vertically standing leaves and nautiloids, and whales, and schools of fish, and trilobites don't get jammed downward through rock deposited over years or decades or centuries or millennia.
R4: The Real Science Radio page lists a few of the many kinds of polystrate fossils and provides the overwhelming evidence that millions of polystrates exist, and further, that polystrates are not rare but common throughout the fossil record.
* Leaves Buried Vertically in Diatomaceous Rock: Now how about those LEAVES! Leaves? Yes, leaves! There are two leaves, buried vertically, as though standing on edge for thousands of years, while buried by the super-slow deposition of diatomaceous rock! Ha!
Allegedly, diatomaceous earth is evidence of the passage of enormous lengths of time because of its formation from single-cellular diatoms. However, the photo of these delicate polystrate leaves (not unlike an indelicate whale similarly buried in diatoms) demonstrates that diatomaceous sediments can be deposited rapidly.
Then there’s that whale skeleton in a California quarry, uplifted, with its rib cage and other bones buried by diatoms, again, which diatomaceous earth is said to be deposited incredibly slowly!
And speaking of whales, how about the 40 whales! buried in Chile (and several hundred more, undiscovered)! Looks like a mass stranding. But these whale fossils surprised a Smithsonian evolutionist, Dr. Nick Pyenson. Why? Because, he says: “It happened four times." Why's that? Because "the fossil site has at least four layers", to which Real Science Radio's Bob Enyart replies: "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha", with RSR co-host Fred Williams thoughtfully adding, "Ha ha!"
* Polystrates like Spines and Rare Schools of Fossilized Jellyfish: Previously, seven sedimentary layers in Wisconsin had been described as taking a million years to form. And because jellyfish have no skeleton, as Charles Darwin pointed out, it is rare to find them among fossils. But now, reported in the journal Geology, a school of jellyfish fossils have been found throughout those same seven layers. So, polystrate fossils that condense the time of strata deposition from eons to hours or months, include:
- Jellyfish in central Wisconsin were not deposited and fossilized over a million years but during a single event quick enough to trap a whole school. (This fossil school, therefore, taken as a unit forms a polystrate fossil.) Examples are everywhere that falsify the claims of strata deposition over millions of years.
- A second school of jellyfish, even though they rarely fossilized, exists in another locale with jellyfish fossils in multiple layers, in Australia's Brockman Iron Formation, constraining there too the rate of strata deposition. By the way, jellyfish are an example of evolution's big squeeze. Like galaxies evolving too quickly, galaxy clusters, and even human feet (which, like Mummy DNA, challenge the Out of Africa paradigm), jellyfish have gotten into the act squeezing evolution's timeline, here by 200 million years when they were found in strata allegedly a half-a-billion years old. Other examples, ironically referred to as Medusoid Problematica, are even found in pre-Cambrian strata.
[This page began as a segment on RSR's classic List of Not So Old Things at rsr.org/list#jellyfish.]
- Countless trilobites buried in astounding three dimensionality around the world are meticulously recovered from limestone, much of which is claimed to have been deposited very slowly. (See image, RSR's Radtke polystrate trilobite.) Contrariwise, because these specimens were buried rapidly in quickly laid down sediments, they show no evidence of greater erosion on their upper parts as compared to their lower parts.
- 171 tadpoles of the same species buried in diatoms.
- Leaves buried vertically through single-celled diatoms powerfully refute the claimed super-slow deposition of diatomaceous rock.
- Many fossils, including a Mesosaur, have been buried in multiple "varve" layers, which are claimed to be annual depositions, yet they show no erosional patterns that would indicate gradual burial.
- A single whale skeleton preserved in California in dozens of layers of diatom deposits thus forming a polystrate fossil.
- The delicacy of radiating spine polystrates, like tadpole and jellyfish fossils, especially clearly demonstrate the rapidity of such strata deposition.
- 40 whales buried in the desert in Chile. "What's really interesting is that this didn't just happen once," said Smithsonian evolutionist Dr. Nick Pyenson. It happened four times." Why's that? Because "the fossil site has at least four layers", to which Real Science Radio's Bob Enyart replies: "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha", with RSR co-host Fred Williams thoughtfully adding, "Ha ha!"
* Polystrate Trees: Examples abound around the world of polystrate trees:
- Yellowstone's petrified polystrate forest (with the NPS exhibit sign removed; see below) with successive layers of rootless trees demonstrating the rapid deposition of fifty layers of strata.
- A similarly formed polystrate fossil forest in France demonstrating the rapid deposition of a dozen strata.
- In many locations, polystrate fossils such as trees span many strata, including famously in the Fossil Cliffs of Joggins, Nova Scotia, which expose sections of 14,000 vertical feet of sedimentary strata, with 49 out of 50 such trees completely lacking their roots, or containing truncated roots, or roots with their rootlets lopped off, indicating that all of these trees were growing elsewhere and transported here in floodwaters.
- These trees lack erosion: Not only should such fossils, generally speaking, not even exist, but polystrates including trees typically show no evidence of erosion increasing with height. All of this powerfully disproves the claim that the layers were deposited slowly over thousands or millions of years. In the experience of your RSR radio hosts, evolutionists commonly respond to this hard evidence with mocking. See CRSQ June 2006, ICR Impact #316, and RSR 8-11-06 at KGOV.com.
* Yellowstone Exhibit: David Coppedge took these photographs in 1983 in Yellowstone National Park and confirmed to RSR after his 2015 trip that today there are no such signs at Specimen Ridge. Instead, wildlife, etc., exhibits are currently on display there. And near Roosevelt Junction at the fenced-in petrified tree site, the park service presents a sign attributing these tree remains to catastrophic mudflow, which explanation is much closer to reality than their old "successive forests" story. The old, incorrect "Fossil Forest" exhibit claimed that dozens of layers of petrified trees were still standing "where they grew". As explained on Real Science Radio's List of Not So Old Things program, these trees have no root system and were hydraulically transported to their current location. See rsr.org/list#yellowstone. [The second photo below is an RSR composite.]
After Bob Enyart's Trading Genesis theistic evolution presentation (see it below) in May 2015 in Malibu, California on the Pepperdine University campus, David Coppedge wrote to Bob Enyart at Real Science Radio:
"The book Roadside Geology of the Yellowstone Country by [geology professor] William J. Fritz (1985, 6th printing 1994), on pp 25-26, also talks about the change. He says, 'When I visited the Mount St. Helens area shortly after the eruption, it was just like Yellowstone!.... Both the mudflows and the appearance of the trees is identical.' (p. 25). On page 26, though, he points out differences between the two sites. Nice to meet you in person today [Bob]."
* 1897 Drawing of Similar Polystrate Trees in France: From Hermann Credner's text Elemente der Geologie, page 479 on the "Upright trunks in carbon sandstone of St. Etienne in France". (Click image to enlarge.)
* These Trees Did Not Grow Here: The old-earth biased National Park Service cannot be trusted when it contradicts biblical chronology. For example, creationists worked to correct the NPS' false claim that Yellowstone's petrified trees grew in up to 50 successive forests, each leaving behind one or more individual trees which became petrified, all of this at Specimen Ridge (and Creek).
* Collectively, they form a Polystrate Fossil Forest: Creationists have worked hard to correct the historical record. Yellowstone's petrified trees lack root systems. So, they do not stand where they grew. Instead, they were all deposited during a catastrophic event that was rapidly laying down a wet sediments (which lithified into today's strata). These trees, after getting waterlogged and sinking vertically (upright floaters), settled onto what was, at their moment of settling, the topmost layer. They were then soon buried (in days to months; not millennia) by subsequently deposited sediments, and joined by other trees vertically sinking and settling into the successive layers of sediments that were burying the trees that had sunk just days and weeks previously. Thus, the entire system of the fossil forest forms a single polystrate fossil that compresses the formation event from allegedly tens of thousands of years down to mere months. See this also in RSR's 3-minute YouTube video:
* Example of Polystrate Radiating Spines: These fossils too, like all polystrates, collapse the possible deposition times of various strata, from alleged hundreds or thousands of years or more down to typically minutes and hours. Have you ever wondered how far polystrate-time-compressed strata extend? (If you haven't, you're either new to geology or your lack of curiosity exposes your hesitancy to allow hard scientific data to challenge your belief system.) One way to find out how far such rapidly-deposited strata extend is to implement RSR's Geo Earth Explorer tool using the APIs in Google Maps as described at rsr.org/gee and on National Geographic's website and in the CRS Quarterly.
* Example of Limestone Encased Trilobites: This specimen, meticulously restored by FOSSILERA, like countless trilobites around the world, was buried in limestone, much of which is said to be deposited very slowly, grain by single grain of calcium carbonate.
Yet thousands of trilobites from countless locations are buried three-dimensionally, 3D, in other words, not flattened like a piece of paper, but having significant thickness that in polystrate fossils spans layers allegedly laid down sequentially over long periods of time. After having viewed perhaps thousands of trilobites from museum collections, private collections, fossil stores, and over the Internet, it appears that there is no evidence of greater erosion of their upper parts as compared to their lower parts. These creatures, regardless of how many layers of fine particles cover their bodies, were buried in a single depositional event, and not gradually. (See RememberTheNautiloids.com for another enormously widespread example of this observation.)
* Example Polystrate Fossil (this one of a Mesosaur): Here's an example of a polystrate fossil from the collection of the Creation Guy John Mackay. Fossils like this one, buried in multiple "varve" layers, which are claimed to be annual depositions, show no erosional patterns that would indicate a gradual burial. The image to the right, and also from John Mackay (used by permission) is of a bone of an extinct vertebrate squid-like creature, a Belemnite. It's a polystrate fossil because like the countless trilobites, nautiloids, and other creatures, it was buried in limestone, much of which was allegedly super slowly deposited.
* An Entire School of Fish in a Limestone/Shale Deposit: When a fossil of an entire school of fish is found in a finely layered deposit, the entire collection forms a single polystrate fossil which disproves any claim of slow deposition.
The species, Erismatopterus levatus, appears to be an allegedly extinct trout-perch. RSR's Bob Enyart studied computer science at Arizona State University (entry level through to coursework in AI) and so notices when ASU researchers make important observations, as here.
They charted the position and heading direction of every single fish. Mizumoto found that if he looked at where the fish were and where they were going, they seemed to obey two rules that live, modern fish schools follow: repulsion from close neighbors (as if to avoid bumping into each other) but attraction to more distant fish (as if to stay together as a school). Their positions didn’t appear to be random.
- Nautiloid fossils in the bottom layer of the Redwall Limestone: The Grand Canyon contains millions of dead nautiloids, some as long as your forearm. On average, for every four square meters, one nautiloid either lies or stands upright in limestone throughout the park and far beyond. We've long encouraged old-earthers (like with Stephen Meyer on RSR) to keep an eye out for these fossils.
In the Grand Canyon, this basal layer of the Redwall Limestone runs for 277 miles averaging seven feet thick in the east and thickening to about 40 feet as it runs to the west (and beyond, even to Las Vegas). The remains of these creatures distributed over thousands of square miles contradict the standard account for the super-slow formation of limestone. The Redwall allegedly forms at a rate of about 4,000 years per inch. Along with many other dead creatures in this one particular deposit, 15% of these nautiloids were killed and then fossilized standing on their heads. Yes, vertically. Whatever conditions existed at their demise prevented gravity from enabling all of their dead carcasses to fall over on their sides. Of course, these dead creatures would not lay around for 10,000 years on a seafloor waiting to be fossilized, and they certainly wouldn't stand vertically for 80,000 years waiting for the limestone to entomb them. And as seen characteristically at rsr.org/polystrates with even delicate radiating spines and schools of jellyfish permineralized through multiple strata, there is no wear pattern showing greater erosion on the top as compared to the bottom of buried nautiloids and all such fossils, yet again disproving any slow deposition hypothesis. Famed Mount St. Helen's geologist Steve Austin is also the world's leading expert on nautiloid fossils. (See for example Austin's abstract for a Geological Society of America conference titled the Canyon-Length Mass Kill of Orthocone, Nautiloids, Redwall Limestone (Mississippian), Grand Canyon, Arizona which is excerpted at youngearth.com/grand-canyon-nautiloids.) Dr. Austin has worked in the canyon and presented his findings to the park's rangers at the invitation of National Park Service officials. Austin points out, as is true of many of the world's mass fossil graveyards, that this enormous nautiloid deposition provides indisputable proof of the extremely rapid formation of this significant layer of limestone near the bottom of the canyon.
Standard geology teaches students that limestone as at the Grand Canyon forms at the bottom of a shallow and placid sea with slow and gradual sedimentation, often just one grain of calcium carbonate at a time. But a million nautiloids, literally standing on their heads, would beg to differ.
* Two More Areas of Polystrate Interest: As an exercise for the student, figure out burial rates and other standard explanation challenges for the following:
- "The 90 metres of deposit" of the Hell Creek formation "was created in about 2 million years" yet it is filled with three dimensional hadrosaur fossils (which, btw, happened to be loaded with original biological material)!
- The pterosaur (and two fish) fossil (and others) in the Solnhofen Limestone deposit in Germany.
This page is still in draft form. Feel free to send suggestions to Bob@rsr.org. Also, RSR presents some of the above polystrate examples at youngearth.com.
* Bob Enyart's Argument Against Theistic Evolution: as filmed on the Pepperdine University campus at Malibu...