Garuda wasp

Biogeography and endemic species are two great pieces of evolution. The former refers to the distribution of species across the planet and only evolution adequately explains what we observe. Take for instance Australia. It is filled with marsupial mammals, yet it is off all by its lonesome in the ocean. Clearly mammals did not evolve twice, the second time taking an alternative path to being placental. We need an explanation. The one we have is that this marsupial subset of mammalian life migrated down the Americas, through Antarctica, and into Australia. Fossil and tectonic plate evidence independently confirm this hypothesis – marsupial fossils are found all through South America and into Antarctica (and, of course, Australia), dating back to the time when those continents were still all connected.

Endemic species also constitute a nice bit of evidence for Darwinists. The man himself, Charles Darwin, saw quite an array of species that are only present on the Galapagos Islands, their relatives residing back in South America for the most part. (One of my favorite Galapagos animals is the marine iguana.) But there are far greater islands out there. Madagascar has to be the first to come to mind (and, in turn, its lemurs come to mind next for me). There is also Alejandro Selkrik Island, a place I mention in the first link in this post. And then there is Sulawesi, an Indonesian Island a fair bit north of Australia. It’s a haven for researchers who want to study unique flora and fauna, including many large mammals. It has a lot of protected land and animals (especially its marine life), so it’s a prime location for many biologists. One such biologist is Lynn Kimsey, an entomologist who recently described a pretty striking find:

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares – a wasp that supplements a vicious sting with jaws longer than its front legs.

But this is a very real newly discovered warrior wasp found on the remote Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Dubbed the ‘Komodo dragon’ of the wasp family, the males of the species measure two-and-a-half inches long…

Ms Kimsey, who is also director at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, said: ‘Its jaws are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed. When the jaws are open they are actually longer than the male’s front legs. I don’t know how it can walk.’

Luckily the species prefers to dine on insects, but if threatened it could leave a sizeable mark on human flesh too.

It’s a beast.

Whereas this is an insect which not only can fly, but can be carried away by strong winds, it may very well inhabit a number of other nearby islands. However, given its exceptional size, my suspicion is that it is the unique biosphere of Sulawesi itself which has given rise to such a monster. Perhaps the ‘Garuda wasp’, as it is to be known, can survive elsewhere, but my bet is that its currently only known island of habitat is where it can really thrive.

Of course, its current habitat is effectively random and haphazard without the framework of evolution to guide us. It is only with Darwin’s theory that we can really understand anything about the Garuda wasp or any other unique form of life around the globe.

Only in the light of evolution 3

Once again I am following a chapter in Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True.

There is a pattern within Life that can be seen on oceanic islands. Species which are present are often endemic – only found in that one location. The species common to continents, on the other hand, are often not present on these islands.

In 1703, Alexander Selkrik was part of a plundering group that sailed to the Juan Fernandez archipelago, a few hundred miles off the coast of Chile (pretentiously pronounced “chill-a” by people not from Chile who like to pretend they’re so full of culture). He was voluntarily marooned on one of the islands (Mas a Tierra). He remained there for over four years. He hunted goats and utilized other species introduced by earlier sailors. Little did Selkrik know, his island (now named Alejandro Selkrik Island) was full of these foreign species.

On the island are five species of birds, 126 species of plants, a fur seal, and various insects which are entirely unique to the location. Equally notably, there’s a lot missing from the island. There are no native amphibians, reptiles, or mammals. Islands throughout the world show this same pattern.

Creationism wholly fails to explain the distribution of species – biogeography. It is only in the light of evolution that any logically tenable solution is found. Species are spread across the globe in patterns which follow the movements of the continents. For instance, plants which have a clear common ancestor are explained by the fact that Earth once was composed of a supercontinent known as Gondwana. It split into several sections. This divided species which had already split from one another, causing more adaptation (or extinction). One must believe in tremendous coincidences to just wave this away. That is, the evidence (the biggest foe of the creationist) says plate tectonics caused the movement of the continents which corresponds perfectly to the distribution of species. There is no other plausible explanation.

When observing the world’s biogeography, it is obvious that Australia needs some explanation. Why is it dominated by marsupial mammals while lacking so much in placenta mammals? Better yet, why is the rest of the world lacking in marsupial animals (except for the Virginia opossum)? The answer is in evolution. The animals on Australia show their common ancestry with animals elsewhere by their Class: they are mammals, just as tamarins are mammals. However, they show their divergence and evolution with key differences. Notably, the birthing process and raising of young differs drastically.

Now here’s a prediction that all this makes. Marsupials are found as early as 80 million years ago. Interestingly, they are not found at this time in Australia, but instead North America. With their evolution, they spread to South America about 40 million years ago. About 10 million years later, they’re in Australia. This means there was a connection of land from South America to Australia. The evidence bears this out. Geologists know South America was connected to Antarctica. That in turn was connected to Australia – actually, it was more like a cobble of connection; these continents were all part of Gondwana, deep in the Southern Hemisphere. So, to get from South America to Australia, marsupials must have passed over what is now Antarctica. Prediction: There should be fossils dating between 30 and 40 million years in Antarctica.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that, yes, there are marsupial fossils in Antarctica. And yes, they date from 35 to 40 million years in age. Again, a person has to believe in tremendous coincidence to reject this evidence. Geologists independently concluded that Gondwana existed and how it separated, and at roughly what times this all happened. Biologists then concluded that, if evolution is true, marsupial fossils must be presented in a particular location. They were right. Only in the light of evolution does this make sense.

Coyne goes on to explain islands, which I may address in the future. For now, I will leave the evidence at this point. The tremendously short attention span of people – creationists and rationalists alike – forces my hand.