Seahorses: poster fish for creationism!?!

While scouring the internet for information about the fossil record for seahorses and pipefish, I came across a series of posts on a website, “The Atlas of Creation” claiming that the existence of 5 million year old fossil seahorses and razorfish
leaves Darwinsits speechless” and “declares that evolution is a lie.”  Needless to say, my qualifying exam studies were put on hold while, incredulous, I took a detour through the interwebs to see how prevalent this opinion was. Armed with a a fact or two–such as the age of a fossil, a picture of modern seahorse armor, or even a citation of some great work on seahorse evolution by Dr. Van Wassenbergh–creationists all across the internet use the seahorse as an example of a creature that could only have been created “from the beginning” by God. Needless to say, the reasoning  isn’t reasoning, just opinion, incorrect interpretation, and fabrication. Poor seahorses, they look weird enough without being picked on by creationists!

One prevalent misconception is that there are seahorses and there are pipefishes, but there are no “intermediates.” Granted, evolutionary theory doesn’t hinge on the finding of living or fossil species documenting the change from one form to another. However, in the case of seahorses and pipefish, there are living, [water-]breathing examples of pipefish that are experimenting with seahorse traits. Focusing on shape, seahorses are characterized by the acute angle between their head and body, as well as extreme tail prehensibility. These traits are exhibited to varying degrees in a number of pipefish species and have probably evolved multiple times in response to changes in habitat and diet. The photo below is one of my favorite examples of a pipefish pretty far along the seahorse side of the spectrum, for which is has even been given the intermediate common name “pipehorse.” Note the head posture and tightly curled tail.

Finally, if they are still in doubt, I would tell these creationists to open a copy of R. Kuiter’s “Seahorses and their relatives.” There is no way that you can leaf through color images of 80 species of seahorses and claim that they have not been adapting and evolving since their origin.


About sarahjlongo

I'm a first year graduate student in the Department of Population Biology at UC Davis. Broadly, I am interested in studying both the patterns and processes of evolution in actinopterygian fishes.
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