Burrowing Shrimp and The Global Flood of Noah

“The preponderance of evidence favors the hypothesis that the [eight meter long] structures are escape burrows of animals that had colonized, or were concentrated in, the lag and were suddenly buried by the deposition of the massive sand.”–Journal of Paleontology (May, 1990). See 2nd citation next page.

Glenn Morton is a professional petroleum geologist and critic of Young Earth Creationists. He recently challenged Dr. John Baumgardner to explain Animal Burrows in the fossil record because Morton believes they present a great challenge to the YEC/Flood view. I don’t know if Dr. B will take the time to join Morton’s discussion, but I am. We have only just begun this discussion at TheologyWeb and it should be interesting. You can read what Morton says at this link … http://home.entouch.net/dmd/burrows.htm Morton says that “YECs have not addressed the burrow problem” but I found that they have indeed, if only recently. These pictures come from an article in the prestigious journal Science entitled “Supershrimp: Deep Bioturbation in the Strait of Canso, Nova Scotia,” (Science, Vol. 192, pp 790-791).This genus of shrimp, Axius, has been found in water almost 700 meters deep and digs very deep burrows (evidently greater than 3 meters), and can burrow very quickly (the animals are able to escape the dredge). The article says …

Although several square meters of bottom were excavated to a depth of 3 m, no live shrimp were recovered. The burrow systems are evidently deeper than 3 m, and the animals are able to escape the dredge by seeking lower levels. The dredge was used to remove the upper meter of sediment in several areas of high burrow concentration. Fresh sediment was then used to refill excavated areas. Overnight, burrows were reestablished in the same densities, and in approximately the same locations. (p. 791)

I found out about this article by reading prominent YEC author John Woodmorappe, “Are soft-sediment trace fossils (ichnofossils) a time problem for the Flood?,” (Journal of Creation 20(2) 2006, p. 113). In speaking of these shrimp, Woodmorappe says

While this is obviously not the same as having a comparable thickness of sediment suddenly deposited upon them, it does indicate an ability to deal with a significant amount of sediment compaction. It should be added that a variety of marine animals expel water in order to fluidize the sediment around them to facilitate movement and/or burrowing.81,82 This fluidization of sediment immediately around the organisms may alleviate the effects of compaction, creating ‘wiggle room’ for potential protracted post-burial burrowing.83 Finally, there is a series of enigmatic ichnofossils which, if correctly interpreted as escape burrows, indicate that some organisms can burrow through a staggering eight metres of sediment,84 at least under some circumstances.

Hmmm … I’d like to see that paper (footnote 84). Here’s what the abstract says …

Enigmatic Eight-Meter Trace Fossils in the Lower Pennsylvanian Lee Sandstone, Central Appalachian Basin, Tennessee

Christopher Wnuk, John O. Maberry

Journal of Paleontology, Vol. 64, No. 3 (May, 1990), pp. 440-450

Enigmatic tubular trace fossils up to eight meters long occur in the Lower Pennsylvanian Middlesboro Member of the Lee Formation. Two morphotypes occur: type 1 trace fossils are plain, smooth, vertical, nonbranching, parallel-walled, tubular structures; type 2 trace fossils branch, have walls with faint vertical striations, regularly or irregularly spaced nodes, and funnel-shaped terminations. Sandstone casts filling type 2 structures have helical spiral morphology, and, in rare individuals, faint meniscate fills have been observed. Both trace-fossil morphotypes have poorly cemented wall linings containing framboidal pyrite, amorphous carbon, quartz sand, and poorly preserved fecal material. The trace fossils occur in a massive, structureless, channel-form sandstone, originating at the contact between a channel lag and the overlying massive fill. The stratigraphic sequence is interpreted to represent a barrier island transgressing an estuarine facies. A tidal inlet within the barrier facies scoured into the underlying estuarine sediments. Subsequent rapid filling of the inlet led to the deposition of the massive sandstone. Origin of these structures is uncertain. The preponderance of evidence favors the hypothesis that the structures are escape burrows of animals that had colonized, or were concentrated in, the lag and were suddenly buried by the deposition of the massive sand. However, no likely burrower has been identified, and several characteristics of the structures and the enclosing sediments indicate that they may be completely inorganic in origin.

Preponderance of evidence favors sudden burial, huh? Sounds familiar. Anyone ever heard of Noah’s Flood?

OK, so there we have some interesting stuff. I won’t draw any firm conclusions until Glenn has had his chance to respond, but it does look at first glance like the “Animal Burrow Objection” may not be such a strong objection to the Global Flood after all.


Here’s some excerpts from Morton’s website.

Burrows and burrowing throughout the geologic column are a great challenge to the young-earth paradigm. If there was a global flood which laid down all the rocks in a one year period, then there should be little time for burrowing animals to burrow and they should become fewer and fewer the higher up one goes in the rock record. This is because the animals should have been killed and buried down deep and they should not have lived to burrow in the later stages of the flood.Young-earth creationists never speak of burrows and at the same time understand the implications. Below are some burrows.

What does this burrow say about the ‘global’ flood? It says a lot. The animal which dug this spiral burrow was in no hurry to escape the flood. He dug down in a spiral and then up in a spiral. There were hundreds of these burrows in that shale. About the top of the central burrow, you can see a horizontal line. That is about the level of the former ocean bottom, where the burrowing animal came out of his burrow into the sea. You can see a very slight color difference (from greenish to orangish above) in the rocks above that level. They differ slightly in lithology.These burrows are NOT escape burrows as is often claimed by YECs when faced with this data. Escape burrows are straight up. this thing is eating the organic matter in the mud. The maker of this burrow is not in a hurry.

Once again, young-earth creationism fails to explain this data. There are around 15,000 feet of sediment beneath this burrow and stratigraphically another 5,000 above it. To deposit 20,000 feet of sediment in a one year flood requires 54 feet of deposition per day. and that means 2.28 feet per hour. If sediment were raining down on that poor burrower while he was going down, he would have to then burrow further up to get to the ocean than the level at which he started. Clearly you can see that this isn’t the case.

YECs have not addressed the burrow problem. I have shown lots of burrows over the past few months. How do you have animals burrow 2-4 feet per hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 4 weeks per month, for a year without rest? Since these marine animals had to live outside of the ark, in the water where they were being buried, how did they survive the flood? This isn’t a case of merely believe.

Morton says the spiral burrows are not escape burrows as YECs claim. Well … this YEC does not claim they are escape burrows. Why should I claim this? Our burrowing shrimp friend described above lives quite happily under hundreds of meters of water, burrowing contentedly in the sea floor. Why couldn’t these spiral guys have been doing the same thing when all of a sudden their calm, muddy home got inundated by thousands of feet of sediment? They probably didn’t notice the difference until much later when the oxygen ran out. I really don’t see a problem here, Glenn, but feel free to enlighten me!

3 Responses to “Burrowing Shrimp and The Global Flood of Noah”

  1. jukia says:

    The only “problem” is that you continue to think there was a world wide flood only a few thousand years ago. Other than that–who cares. You continue to post on topics that you have no real knowledge of and then ignore the input from people who do know what they are talking about.
    Anyone with any interest in Dave’s inability to comprehend the real world should hope over to IIDB or Rants n Raves where he consistently makes YECers look really really dumb.

  2. porzitski says:

    Jukia, these are extraordinary posts for anyone who calls themselves a scientist (or plays one on tv). Your words on these posts are about as far from scientific as a human can get. If your idea of science includes whatever someone else said that fits your model, and calling names on those who don’t measure up to your parameters, well, all I can say is bless your heart.

  3. Tony Sparks says:

    I know that was a while back for you Dave but having just slogged through that forum debate I wanted to congratulate you on how you handled yourself. It was shocking to see how infantile the discussion became.

    I won’t pretend to know the definitive answer to whether these burrowers were active in a flood or in a OEC paradigm but you did I think if any one is objective succeed on one front – If the burrowers can survive even for a few weeks during a flood it makes the case Morton attempts to make much weaker as the knock down dead point he claims it is.

    So much more to study though. I doubt Morton got any extra followers (the thread could have been shrunk to about three pages if those who had already picked a side before the thread didn’t do cheer leading and snipe attacks). Whether he is right or wrong as a Christian I have a hard time swallowing the juvenile tactics of Davey, “little davey” , “dishonest davey” he hurled nonstop along with various childish emoticons and name calling and personal insults (while in one eye opening post claiming to not being personally insulting).

    It was for a few posts a worthwhile thread but probably 90 pages plus of it was a demonstration on how Christians can act in a way that makes people wonder if they are.