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Dinosaurs for Dummies                                  Richard Dawkins                                                   More To Life

Built on Rock ! Exploring Answers to Questions about Life, The Universe & Everything
Fossils at Sharktooth Bone Bed

From the website: A Visit to the Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed, Southern California.

‘Sharktooth Hill bone bed has provided paleontologists with the single largest assemblage of Middle Miocene marine vertebrate animal fossils in the world (the famous Miocene Calvert Formation of Maryland also produces many kinds of marine vertebrate remains). The impressive list of marine mammal specimens alone from the Temblor Formation includes 10 types of dolphins and dolphin-like creatures, a porpoise, one sea lion, five kinds of whales, a sea cow, a walrus, a seal and an extinct hippopotamus-like fellow called Desmostylus--a 10-foot-long animal related to the elephant that evidently walked around on the sea floor crushing shellfish with its massive, powerful jaws. Also identified have been four extinct large turtles, a marine crocodile, many kinds of bony fishes, 20 species of birds, and some 27 species of sharks and rays.

In addition to the marine fauna, several skeletal elements from land mammals have also been taken from the fossil beds. These include a lower jaw of the mustelid (weasel-like) Sthenictis lacota; a lower jaw of the huge amphicyonid, or "beardog" Pliocyon medius; the dog Tomarctus optatus; the three-toed horses "Merychippus"brevidontus and Anchitherium sp.; the rhinoceroses Aphelops megalodus and Teleoceras medicornutum; the tapir Miotapirus sp.; the deer-like dromomercyidsBouromeryx submilleri and Bouromeryx americanus; the protoceratid (sort of a cross between a modern deer and a cow) Prosynthetoceras sp.; and the gomphothere (an extinct proboscidean) Miomastodon sp. Such remains are exceedingly rare, though, and are usually considered anomalies in the local Middle Miocene fossil record. Their presence in proved marine-deposited rocks points to preservation in shallow sea waters, since it is unlikely that the carcasses of land animals could have been transported far from the ancient shoreline before they settled to the ocean floor.

While scientists understand very well the variety of animals that formerly lived in the Middle Miocene Temblor-period sea, they are less certain of what caused restricted preservation in such a narrow bed in a locally unfossiliferous deposit. Although the Temblor Formation does yield moderately common fossil molluscs and echinoids elsewhere in its area of exposure (Reef Ridge in the Coalinga district, for example), the Sharktooth Hill bone bed occurs in sediments that are mysteriously barren of any other kinds of organic remains. In an interval several hundred feet both above and below the bone-bearing horizon there is absolutely no trace of past animal or plant life….

Such an unusual abundance of diverse species of marine mammals, sharks, birds, rays, skates and even land mammals requires a unique mechanism of preservation.

Clearly the curious mixing of both land and marine vertebrates in the same layer points to an as-yet incompletely understood set of circumstances. Needless to report, ever since the bone bed's discovery on that summer day way back in 1853, investigators have wondered just what events could have created such a remarkable concentration of vertebrate remains in a narrow horizon, to the exclusion of all other marine invertebrates normally associated with a shallow-water environment.’

Among… ‘the possible mechanisms of deposition proposed for the famed bone bed are turbidity currents--which are masses of water and sediments that flow down the continental slope, often for very long distances. Presumably, the carcasses of sea and land animals were caught up in such underwater sediment flows, their bones transported for considerable distances before the remains dropped out of suspension in a submarine canyon, far removed from the Middle Miocene shoreline. Perhaps favouring this explanation is the fact that many of the vertebrate remains from the bone bed reveal obvious signs of wear and tear, suggesting some degree of transport and agitation prior to their eventual burial. As a matter of fact, this is the one specific mechanism of bone deposition that most closely matches the evidence; indeed, it's the single most widely accepted method by which literally millions of sea mammal bones and shark and ray teeth could have possibly been preserved in such a narrow internal, to the exclusion of virtually every other kind of marine life.’

Other mechanisms are suggested but the following comments conclude a listing of those possible.

…’This is but a sampling of the ideas proposed to account for the Sharktooth Hill bone bed. Unfortunately (for the theorists who suggested them), all but one of the above proposals--the turbidity current idea, specifically are quite simply put, flat-out wrong. They have been disproved. Over the years, there have probably been as many hypotheses advanced as there are theorists to invent them. Suffice it to say that no one single explanation, save the turbidity current proposal, has yet been delivered to answer all the questions posed by this famous bone bed of the Middle Miocene.’

Following this categorical acceptance of turbidity currents and refusal to endorse any other explanation the writer goes on to mention the most recent, which does not endorse turbidity currents. The writer, apparently bowing to a superior authority, seems prepared to concede that it is the best, a statement that contradicts everything he stated above. The reason is obvious; the latest theory fits the evolutionary model and it comes from on high.

( It occurs to me that an explanation which builds on the naturally favoured one: “turbidity currents” could, if extended to encompass a global flood model, answer all the mysteries posed earlier in the article)

The writer continues:

‘That this deposit “requires a unique mechanism of preservation”….”points to an as-yet incompletely understood set of circumstances”….and “investigators have wondered just what events could have created such a remarkable concentration of vertebrate remains in a narrow horizon, to the exclusion of all other marine invertebrates normally associated with a shallow-water environment.”’

Maybe it is not completely understood because it never happened in a shallow water environment. Anyway here is the latest theory. you decide whether this explanation accounts for what has been described above.

‘Recently, though, some researchers claim that that problem has now been solved, once and for all. The "definitive" explanation--as published by The Geological Society Of America in a paper entitled, "Origin of a widespread marine bone-bed deposited during the middle Miocene Climatic Optimum" by Nicholas D. Pyenson, Randall B. Irmis, Jere H. Lipps, Lawrence G. Barnes, Edward D. Mitchell, Jr., and Samuel A. McLeod--is that the Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed accumulated slowly above a local disconformity over a maximum of 700 thousand years due to sediment starvation timed to a major transgressive-regressive cycle during middle Miocene times 15.9 to 15.2 million years ago. The upshot here, according to the authors, is that the world-famous bone-bed is not the product of a mass dying, neither is it the inevitable result of red-tide poisoning, nor the remains of animals killed by volcanic eruptions, nor the preservations of vertebrates through the concentrating action of turbidity currents (which has been the accepted, most accurate explanation for many years)--not even the site of a long-term calving region where sea mammals birthed and sharks hunted can fully explain the fabulous bonanza bone layer. The Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed came about, the scientists claim, over thousands of years due to slow, steady bone accumulation during a period of geologic time when very little clastic sedimentation (sands and silts and muds) occurred.

Perhaps this new research has finally solved the mysteries surrounding the deposition of likely the greatest concentration and diversity of fossil marine vertebrates in the world. The turbidity current idea still holds water (pun intended) for many, though, and will likely remain a lasting viable explanation for many folks in the paleontological and geological communities.’

That ends the quotes from the charming and seemingly mildly baffled author of this article.

What you have read from the Geological Society of America is a classic Uniformitarian explanation that simply beggars belief. A scientific world that was freed from its evolutionary straightjacket might look at this evidence and come to the easiest and most common sense conclusion: it was caused by a mighty flood that swept along and buried a great variety of creatures from a variety of habitats until they became the most unnatural conglomeration of animal species ever found in a single unnaturally narrow location devoid of the very fossils that might have been expected.

How could it be that so many creatures are found buried and fossilised together?

Whales / Sharks / Seals / Walruses / the extinct hippos / Turtles / Marine Crocodiles / Deer like creatures / Tapirs / Weasel like creatures / Mammoth or elephant like creatures / Rhinos / Dog like carnivores, some as big as bears /  extinct three toed horses / and finally birds!

There are twenty unspecified species of birds plus marine and  land animals. Is it likely that any such mass assemblage of bones belonging to creatures as diverse as sharks, birds and rhinos, could reasonably be put together by anything other than some catastrophic event involving massive floods maybe caused by underground volcanism on an unprecedented scale? It is worth knowing that this area with its ludicrously narrow bed have buried within it, not just a few bones. The layers exposed at Sharktooth Hill (along the Kern River upstream of the town of Bakersfield) have yielded up not just thousands of specimens, but hundreds of thousands. In some places, a shovelful of dirt would hold hundreds of shark teeth. 

If there were no pressure to conform to uniformitarian principles and an evolutionary agenda hostile to any interpretation that edged towards a biblical interpretation then the flood model could easily be accepted. When a theory becomes so entrenched that it cannot be challenged then it becomes a kind of dangerous dictatorship. And dictatorships protect their orthodoxies by naming opponents as heretics and ensuring their works do not see the light of day.

Harlan Bretz, called a heretic by the authorised elite, was one of those who broke the mould in the field of geology. The geological establishment disregarded his field work because uniformitarian principles ruled the roost. Here at Sharktooth Bone Bed we have this same elite, this time the Geological Society of America rather than Washington State, applying the very same principles that were proved hopelessly wrong by Bretz with regard to the Channelled Scablands. Slow and gradual processes rather than catastrophic even when the physical evidence cries out for a catastrophic explanation.

The denial of water borne sediments as a cause for much of the global geological landscape with its mass fossil graveyards can only be based on a hatred of the biblical accounts, and indeed anything that tends towards an acceptance of a global flood. The fact is that turbidity currents, volcanic activity and plate tectonics, releasing and moving huge bodies of water prove time and again to be the one rational evidence based reason for the appearance of the geology of the earth. The avoidance of such a conclusion results in the kind of explanation invoked by the Geological Society of America on the Sharktooth Bone Beds.

This question cannot be avoided: could the much derided biblical story of a global flood be by far the most likely explanation for what is observed throughout the earth? This planet’s geology is a testimony to the effects of upheavals, volcanism, gigantic sedimentary deposits and erosional features unlike anything seen today, with death and burial on a scale almost beyond imagination. In the bible we hear the reasons why God determined to do something. Something each one of us can readily understand; and that is to make a decision to start again with a clean palette, to wipe everything of the past away and to begin all over again. Over a lifetime many of us will have done this on a small scale: with relationships, projects, and as in my case many times over with pieces of artwork. I have wiped out, transformed and sometimes destroyed paintings that would have appeared OK and complete to most people. A creator has total rights over his or her creation. You may criticize God for His decisions, but you cannot deny a Creator God his rights to destroy something that has gone so terribly wrong.

How wrong? In God’s estimation it was beyond repair. How do you get into and change the mind and heart of a free intelligent and conscious being determined to do evil? To achieve this end without taking away its freedom would involve making it a robot capable of doing nothing but the will and command of its maker. God chose to start again, and that process was governed by a Creator who is capable of not only creating emotional responses but feeling emotions; in this case one of overwhelming grief. Most of us may have experienced the similar feelings, particularly those who have known love and had children who have made bad choices in life.

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.…” Genesis.