The Dodo’s Lesson in Evolution Theory
In 1681, the last dodo bird on the planet breathed its last. But that did not end the bird’s story.
Some 300 years later, botanists on Mauritius—the island where the dodo had lived—noticed that a certain species of tree was rapidly dying off. Tambalacoque trees had historically grown in abundance on Mauritius, but by the 1970s some botanists said only 13 remained—and they were all thought to be around 300 years old. Each year, they were producing fruit containing seeds, but none of the seeds were sprouting into saplings. This meant that no new tambalacoque trees had sprouted since the late 1600s.
The tambalacoque’s average lifespan is roughly 300 years, so the last trees of the species were very near the end of their lives. Once those 13 died, the tambalacoque would be just like the dodo: extinct.
American ecologist Stanley Temple wondered if the dodo’s extinction 300 years earlier was connected to the tambalacoque’s inability to reproduce, which had also set in about 300 years earlier.
In Mauritius, Temple made a fascinating discovery: When the dodos were still alive, they ate tambalacoque’s fruit. And only after the seeds had journeyed through their digestive tract could they successfully germinate.
Researcher and writer Robert Doolan explained the discovery: “The tree’s seeds are encased in a thick-walled protective coat, but the dodo’s stone-filled gizzard was able to exert a powerful crushing pressure on them. The bird’s gizzard (a second stomach for grinding food) would pound away at the seed’s coat, weakening it and cracking it a little, but not enough to damage the seed inside. When eventually deposited by the dodo, the seed was able to germinate.”
After making this discovery, Temple found a solution: He imported some American turkeys to Mauritius. Their digestive process was similar enough to that of the dodos to be able to activate the tambalacoque seeds. Thanks to Temple and the turkeys, the tambalacoque lives on to this day.
The dodo went extinct back in 1681, but 300 years later, it delivered a posthumous message: For the tambalacoque tree to survive, it likely had to have come into existence at the same time as the dodo bird.
This supports the biblical account of creation. Genesis 1 records that when God renewed the Earth, He made plants and trees on the third day, and on the fifth day, He made animals, including birds (Genesis 1:11-23). The Bible’s account of creation matches the existence of a tree that relies on—and has always relied on—a bird for its survival.
Many species heavily depend on others for their survival. Many more organisms are mutually dependent: e.g., the calimyrna fig and the blastophaga wasp, the catalpa worm and the braconid, the yucca plant and the pronuba moth, and many more.
In each of these cases, the brilliance of the Creator is on display. The intricacy of His physical creation is clear. And the account of how He created Earth’s sophisticated ecosystems is confirmed.
However, the discoveries of relationships like the dodo-tambalacoque symbiosis have not changed the minds of evolutionists or even caught them unawares. When Temple’s work was first published, some creationists thought it could. They pointed out that the findings presented problems for evolutionists who say large trees evolved some 360 million years ago, while the ancestors of today’s birds only about 65 million years ago. That would have presumably left the tambalacoque with no way to germinate its seeds for some 300 million years.
But evolutionists developed hypotheses for these biological relationships, arguing that dependencies could have gradually evolved through chance mutations over eons. And there is some evidence that other animals such as turtles also ate and activated the seeds, though apparently in insufficient quantities to prevent the tree from dying out after the dodo’s extinction. So the dodo-tambalacoque relationship is not seen as the smoking gun some creationists hope for.
The foremost evolutionists wield impressive intellects. They have found ways to explain many aspects of the universe within the framework of their hypothesis. But the foundation of that hypothesis—a creation without a Creator—is false.
In the centuries leading up to the Scientific Revolution, the Catholic Church reigned as the chief authority and knowledge source for much of the world. The clergy often viewed scientists and their discoveries as a threat to Catholic doctrine. Church officials sometimes embarrassed the church by trying to defend erroneous church teachings such as geocentrism, which science offered empirical evidence against.
Competition between science and religion heated up. For some in the science camp, the desire to undermine church authority became the main motivation. Some scientists challenged God’s very existence as a way to discredit the foundation of religion. Such reasoning spawned the evolutionary theory. Proponents of the theory sometimes undertake studies with that conclusion already firmly in mind. Whatever they can form into supporting the arguments for evolution, they keep. All else they often reject or downplay.
The Church of Evolution began with just a few members. But those members were affluent and assertive—a loud minority. Over the decades, their ranks have swelled.
Many have succumbed to intellectual bullying by allowing their faith to go the way of the dodo. But that doesn’t have to be the case. To bolster your faith in the Creator, request and set aside some time to study our free booklet Does God Exist?