First Fossil Orchid

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First fossil orchid found, according to reports in Harvard University Gazette, BBC News Online, ABC (Australia) News in Science, news@ nature 29 Aug 2007and Nature, vol. 448, p1042, 30 Aug 2007. Santiago Ramirez of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Massachusetts, and his colleagues have found a bee preserved in amber that was carrying orchid pollen on its back. It was immediately recognisable as orchid pollen because orchids package their pollen in distinctive clumps called pollinia. The pollen grains were so well preserved that the researchers were able to classify it as belonging to the orchid subtribe Goodyerinae. The structure of pollen grains is similar to that of two living species of Goodyerinae, but it has been given a new genus and species name Meliorchis caribea. It must have had the same method of pollination of one species of living Dominican Goodyerinae orchids that attaches its pollinia to back of bees. The bee is an extinct stingless bee named Proplebeia dominicana and is also "exquisitely preserved." The amber was found in the Dominican Republic and is dated as belonging to the Miocene period, i.e. 15 to 20 million years old. The preserved pollen is the first fossil orchid ever found and the first fossil of an insect-orchid interaction. Because of the lack of fossils there has been much dispute about when orchids first evolved and estimates have varied from 26 to 112 million years ago. Those who believed in the older dates claimed that in spite of the lack of fossils, orchids are the largest, most diverse, highly specialised and widespread group of flowering plants, and it must have taken a long time for them to evolve into all those varieties and spread all over the world. Now that they have a date to start with Ramirez's colleagues at the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and National Herbarium Nederland in Leiden, The Netherlands, have used a "molecular clock" method of estimating ages by comparing genes of living orchids and building a family tree by working out which plants are most closely related and working back. By assuming a constant rate of evolution, the scientists estimated that the oldest common ancestor of orchids lived over 76 million years ago. Ramirez commented: "The dinosaurs could have walked among orchids."

ABC, BBC

Editorial Comment: We have no doubt that dinosaurs walked among orchids, but not because of any reasons given by the authors of this report. The "molecular clock" method depends on applying already held evolutionary assumptions to the facts. Let's separate the facts from the assumptions in this story. The facts are that a bee with pollen on its back was preserved well enough for both the bee and the pollen to be identified. The pollen can be identified as belonging to a known group of orchids, the Goodyerinae , which are still alive and growing all over the world.

None of these facts are any evidence for the theory of evolution. The bee and the orchid show no sign of having once been any other kind of living thing or of changing into another living thing. If the bee and the orchid are both extinct that is evidence that there used to be more orchids and bees than there are now. The facts fit Genesis, which tells us that plants and animals were created as separate kinds to reproduce after their kinds. The pollen attached to this bee reminds us of the working relationship between insects and plants that enables plants to multiply after their kind, and couldn't work until both were carrying out their function. Since then the world has degenerated because of human rebellion and God's judgement. This has meant many living things have died out, but no new ones have been created. (Ref. flowers, pollination, fertilisation)

Evidence News 10th October 2007

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