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Whales Help Unlock the History of Fossils

Beached whale carcass bones: Photo 95064100 | Whale © Maxim Tankaria |

[Originally published as Whale Falls: Present Key to the Abundance of Sea Invertebrate Fossils]

In 1987, oceanographers were first able to investigate a whale carcass on the ocean floor. They were amazed at the abundant life the carcass supported.  Since that time, whale falls, as they are now known, have remained an important, although rare, field of study.

Today, dead, beached whales are often pulled out to sea and weighted with heavy chains, which cause them to sink. In this way, their location is known, and they can be easily studied. By return visits to a whale fall, four ecological stages have been discovered:

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  • Large, mobile predators such as sharks will devour the flesh and blubber.
  • Smaller scavengers, such as octopuses and crabs, pick the leftovers.
  • Bone-devouring worms called Osedax, along with clams, snails, and crinoids, move in next.
  • Algae and bacteria blanket the remaining bones and surrounding ground.

When a dead whale sinks to the deep ocean floor, its carcass becomes home and food to a vast array of sea invertebrates.

Imagine what it must have been like during the Flood when all air-breathing, land-living life had drowned and the entire world was covered by the sea. The sea floor (which stretched from pole to pole) could have been littered with carcasses.

No wonder there is such an abundance of clams, snails, crabs, coral, and crinoids in the fossil record. These invertebrates reproduce hundreds if not thousands of tiny offspring known as zooplankton. With so much food available most of the zooplankton would have survived to adulthood, rather than becoming part of the food chain. As the sea floor became littered with carcasses, the carcasses would be covered with invertebrates.

For example, when the dirt encasing the now-famous T-Rex fossil named Sue was filtered, tiny shark teeth were found. Creationists recognize that Sue became a dino fall during the Flood. While secular scientists deny this flood was global, even they must recognize Sue’s carcass faced the same kinds of conditions as whales do.

Those few fully articulate fossils we find are usually in groups near the surface. They could have been islands of floating carcasses that became beached on the rising continents as the Flood waters drained away. With the water gone, there were no sharks or marine life to scavenge them, nor were there other savaging animals or birds, since the only living land animals were still on the ark.

Uplifting mountains and tilting foundational plates would have triggered mudflows that would have buried the carnage of both dinosaurs and invertebrates. Volcanoes added layers of silica ash that would help with the fossilization of the organic material.

Many geologists look at fossil-filled strata and theorize that the abundance of invertebrates proves the earth must be extremely old. They say each thin layer represents a new generation.

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In the road cuts around Cincinnati, there are some extremely thick strata made of multiple layers of limestone. These layers are filled with crinoid, coral, and clam fossils. Geologists say there are too many fossils to be from one generation; they must have accumulated over long periods of time.

These geologists are not considering the abundant food source and invertebrate population explosion that would have occurred during the global Flood. Nor are they considering the tectonic upheaval that happened during the retreating stage of the Flood. Mudflows would have concentrated layer upon layer of mud and lime in some areas, while other areas were washed off.

Modern whale falls offer a picture of the teaming sea life that would have covered the earth during the global Flood. The remains of which are still seen today trapped in the limestone cliffs.

For more information:

Carla Estell portrait

Written by Carla Estell

Carla Estell is a 1987 graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. She has been involved in Christian education and her family's creation ministry which she and her husband Brian began in 1998. They traveled with their 6 homeschooled children through 48 states visiting geological sites, collecting fossils and sharing at camps, schools and churches. In 2016 they relocated to Illinois where Brian now works for Samaritan Ministries while Carla continues to homeschool, tutor and write. They are still available part time for seminars and VBS. More information about their ministry can be found at Stone’s True Story

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