520 million year old shrimp heart is more complex than those of today

First, the straight story on the scientific discovery, as reported in Bioscience Technology.


520 million years ago, the first known animal heart was formed.

It was the heart of an ancient shrimp, and quite a heart it was. For it, and its vascular system, have been found to be more complex than that of modern shrimp, researchers reported in a recent Nature Communications. Its cardiovascular system was apparently one of evolution’s first templates for modern cardiovascular systems. Significant streamlining has occurred since.

The find comes on the heels of an equally important one by the same group: that of a stunningly intact nervous system from the same breed of primordial shrimp: Fuxianhuia protensa.

“This is only the second case of the description of a cardiovascular system in a Cambrian arthropod, the first one being that of the inch-long Marrella from Burgess Shale,” emailed Diego Garcia-Bellido of the University of Adelaide, who co-discovered that first arthropod while at the University of Cambridge. Garcia-Bellido was not involved in the new study. “This new finding of a cardiovascular system in a larger animal (Fuxianhuia is about two to three times as large, thus more detail), together with a fantastically preserved, and very complex, nervous system, unknown in Marrella, and the gut, make it probably the most complete arthropod internal anatomy known in the fossil record.”

The main conclusion drawn, said Garcia-Bellido: “The level of complexity of the Fuxianhuia was extremely high, considering that we are studying some of the oldest animals on Earth.”

Now, if you’re like me, you’re skeptical that soft tissues can be preserved in the fossil record, but:

Said the paleontologist via email: “As we know, most soft tissue of animals tends to decay away once the animals died, so often only the hard parts of animal body (bones, shells, teeth, etc.) are preserved in fossils. However, under very exceptional circumstances, soft tissue and anatomical organ system can also be preserved in fossils.”

Keep in mind that 520 mya is right after the Cambrian explosion that intelligent design people like me love to talk about. I mean you are going from single-celled life to complex organ types in a few million years. Fine if you are an ID proponent, but devastating if you are a Darwinian naturalist.

Cambrian Explosion
The Cambrian Explosion: the origin of phyla

If you are a naturalist, then you need the fossil record to go from simple to complex. The trouble is that all the simple to complex in that image is pure speculation at this point – and not for lack of trying, either.

You know, I am writing this on Saturday night, and in a happier world, this discovery would be discussed tomorrow in every Christian church in the land. This is the kind of data that Christians should be familiar with to check the presupposition of naturalism which is lethal to rational thought. If only we were more focused on truth than on signing and feelings in church. If only we were not so scared of traditional dating of fossils. Maybe then we would be getting somewhere in the culture wars.

8 thoughts on “520 million year old shrimp heart is more complex than those of today”

  1. How is the effectiveness of this apologetic weakened if one does not assert the date of the Cambrian explosion?


    1. Whenever you argue from mainstream science, you take the argument out of the realm of the private and into the realm of the public. It is very important that people understand that it is not “Christian” science that falsifies materialism. It is MAINSTREAM science that falsifies materialism.


      1. Certainly, I agree 100% with this. In fact, we make this case in all areas. For instance, to the atheist, we often say “under your view,…” to the follower of scientism “under your view…,” to the pro-abort “under your view…”
        I’m merely saying that if we leave out the “520 mya” part (I’m not asking you to do so, just that I might), I don’t think this example is weakened. (Lindsay makes a good case, in fact, as to why it might be strengthened.) In this way, we can use this finding to refute the naturalist, but also to build up and encourage the young earth creationist – no small part of the purpose of apologetics.
        I agree that Ken Ham is reducing his audience unnecessarily. Although I am young earth, I would think that taking a neutral “agnostic” view on the age of the earth would allow us a wider audience. Not that I am saying you need to do so, just that this has been my approach and I am trying to figure out if there are holes in it. I’m also wondering if I am being deceptive in doing so – leaving out part of the article?
        To me the remarkable thing, regarding the creation of the heavens and the earth and later the life upon it, is not WHEN God did it, but THAT He did it. I’m still amazed by that.


        1. I agree with that. I’m all for taking the ground we can get. My approach is typically to argue for creation first, and young earth second. If young earth is a stumbling block, I can leave that out and focus on the evidence against naturalism and for creation. For those interested in the young earth view, I am more than happy to explain the evidence for that, but it’s more important to defend God as Creator than to focus on when that happened. I can easily put on my old earth hat to discuss things from a different position in order to win the creation argument.

          I also do my best to use scientific evidence for my position rather than referring to the Bible. I think this is a far better approach than Ken Ham’s presuppositionalism, whether you’re talking to believers or non-believers. About the only time I refer to the Bible in defense of my position is when speaking to a professed believer who is trying to use the Bible as “evidence” for their position, in which case, I will counter with Biblical evidence for my side. I use this same approach (science first, and Bible only if they bring it up), for other issues as well, such as abortion. It is far more effective than trying to use the Bible as an argument with people who don’t believe it.


  2. It makes sense, in the creationist paradigm, that older fossils would be equally or even more complex than similar creatures of today. That is what we commonly find in the fossil record. Not just rarely, but commonly. There is no smooth, gradual increase in complexity represented in the fossil record, as one would expect from Darwinian evolution. There is sudden appearance and stasis and some minor modifications. But the big differences appear first, which is exactly the opposite of what Darwinian evolution predicts.

    Also, soft tissues can and have been preserved in the fossil record. It’s rare, but it has happened. There have even been blood vessels, blood cells, and proteins found in fossilized dinosaur bones. Of course, it makes more sense to me than to most (considering that I think most of the fossil record was formed in a global flood about 4500 years ago) that these things would survive until the present day, but it is a fact that must be dealt with.

    I might also point out that both of these observed facts (sudden appearance of complexity in the fossil record and preserved soft tissue) are consistent with rapid burial of organisms in a global flood event in the not-too-distant past.


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