What do giraffes, cows, sheep, antelope, and deer have in common? Foremost, they all share a specialized digestive system that includes a four-chambered stomach that allows them to obtain nutrients and energy from vegetation that is inaccessible to most mammals. This ability and other shared morphological traits are used by scientists to classify all of these animals in one large group: the Ruminatia. Biologists regard these shared features as evidence that the members of the Ruminatia, consisting of more than 500 living and fossils species, all share a single common ancestor in the distant past.
A few weeks ago I wrote a response to an Answers in Genesis (AiG) article which was promoting extensive and rapid evolution of a limited number of ancestral pairs of animals into tens of thousands of species after a global flood just 4350 years ago (see: Ken Ham’s Darwinism: On the Origin of Species by Means of Hyper-Evolution Following Noah’s Flood). In that response I reported that Ken Ham and AiG are proposing that they species that you and I recognize as a Giraffe did not exist in the same form 4300 years ago. Instead, they insist we need to “reimagine” the ark “kinds” as the common ancestor of both the modern-day giraffe, the Okapi and dozens of other extinct giraffe-like species. They included a possible reconstruction of that ancestral giraffe in their paper (Reimagining Ark Animals).
I had noted that the differences between a giraffe and an okapi were not insignificant and if these two shared a common ancestor why should Answers in Genesis stop there? Why not propose that Noah only had to take on board an ancestral pair of animals with genetic programming to become pronghorn, antelope, sheep, goats, giraffes, okapi, and all cattle? In other words, why not propose a single common ancestor to all the true ruminants just as evolutionary biologist do? After all, they all share many features including a unique stomach architecture.
I have discovered that my suggestion has already been considered by a young-earth writer. Retired veterinarian Jean Lightner and independent young-earth researcher has been working with Answers in Genesis for several years to determine the number of “kinds” of animals that should be displayed in Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter. She had already speculated about the origins of bovines and other ungulates in an article published on creation.com. Here is the pertinent quote (highlights are mine) from Lightner’s article, Identification of Species Within the Cattle Monobaramin (Kind):
Alleged hybrids of cattle with members of another subfamily (Caprinae) and family (Cervidae) hint that the holobaramin (all organisms derived from the created common ancestors, whether known or not) could possibly include the entire family Bovidae and several, if not all, of the five other ruminant families.
Considerable variety is apparent within the cattle monobaramin. In my previous paper on the Tsoan (sheep-goat) monobaramin, I suggested that some of the variety may have resulted from directed mutations. These are changes in genes that occur in response to certain environmental clues and help the organism adapt to the new environment. So far, heritable directed mutations have only been documented in microbes. Within the evolutionary paradigm, mutations are essentially the result of random processes. In the creationary paradigm, mutations may be programmed into the genome so animals could adapt to changing environments after the Curse. Further study of variation within monobaramins, particularly looking at the molecular basis of these differences, may reveal programming of an infinitely wise Creator who provides for his creation in ways we had never before imagined.
In case you are not familiar with bovine classification the Bovidae includes: bison, buffalo, antelope, gazelles, sheep, goats, muskoxen and all domestic cattle. There are more than 140 recognized living species and over 300 extinct species of bovines.
Dr. Lightner is proposing that all of these bovines could share a single ancestral pair of parents. But she doesn’t stop there. She is willing to consider that the other five families of ruminants may also share a common ancestor with the bovines. These five families include the chevrotians (mouse-deer), pronghorns, giraffes and okapi and all deer.
This isn’t the first time she has suggested all of these animals may have originated from the same ancestor. In her article “Mammalian Ark Kinds” for Answers in Genesis she wrote the following:
There are species of deer (Cervidae) and antelope (Bovidae) that are not easily identifiable to family unless the cranial appendages are present. All this hints that one created kind could have given rise to all in Ruminantia. However, given the diversity of this group I will split them so as to avoid underestimating the number of kinds on the Ark.
This is simply an astounding proposal. The very fact she is willing to consider such expansive diversification and the editors of creation.com are willing to publish these ideas is truly mind-boggling. If she is right then the Ark Encounter could represent the parents of cows, sheep, goats, giraffes and deer with just a single pair of animals. I have created a graphic (below) that represents a possible hypothesis that young-earth creationist’s may propose for the origin of the ruminants.
What would the ancestor of a giraffe, cow, antelope and a sheep look like? Has Lightner and AiG considered how the inevitable transitions between these animals might look and where we might find them? Why are there no written reports of animals undergoing such dramatic transitions in either secular or sacred historical writings?
If a giraffe, a cow and a sheep can be borne a single set of parents then the question becomes: just how far can biological variation be stretched in the young earth viewpoint? David MacMillan’s guest post, Dodging Darwin: How Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is Slowly Embracing Evolution , explored that very question with respect to the animals classified in the Carnivora. Lightner and others have embraced so much change one has to wonder how long will young-earth creationists deny that whales were not born of a land-dwelling ungulate ancestor that was on the ark or that seals do not share a common ancestor with bears?
Lastly, how will the greater acceptance of the flexibility of life forms effect the YEC dogma that “vast differences” between human and chimpanzee biology make the story of human origins from an ape ancestor impossible? I can’t help but feel that the growing acceptance of vast amounts of change is undermining their own view on the specialness of man. I believe this is question they need to think about carefully as they proceed into these uncharted waters.
Credits for Images used in the article above:
“Abomasum (PSF)” by Pearson Scott Foresman – Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation→This file has been extracted from another file: PSF A-10005.png.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abomasum_(PSF).png#/media/File:Abomasum_(PSF).png
“Flickr – Rainbirder – Reticulated Giraffe drinking” by Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland – Reticulated Giraffe drinking. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_Reticulated_Giraffe_drinking.jpg#/media/File:Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_Reticulated_Giraffe_drinking.jpg
“Flickr – Rainbirder – High-rise living” by Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland – High-rise living. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_High-rise_living.jpg#/media/File:Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_High-rise_living.jpg Giraffe
Bovids “Family Bovidae six species” by This image is a derivative work of the following images:File:Sable bull.jpg (uploaded by user:Redf0x)File:Take ours!.jpg (uploaded by user:Steven Walling)File:Female zebu cattle.JPG (uploaded by User:Mammalwatcher)File:Nemorhaeduscaudatusarnouxianus.JPG (uploaded by User:Magnus Manske)File:Stavenn Cephalophus maxwellii.jpg (uploaded by User:Stavenn )File:Nyalas male.jpg (uploaded by User:Magnus Manske) – This image is a derivative work of the following images:File:Sable bull.jpg (uploaded by user:Redf0x)File:Take ours!.jpg (uploaded by user:Steven Walling)File:Female zebu cattle.JPG (uploaded by User:Mammalwatcher)File:Nemorhaeduscaudatusarnouxianus.JPG (uploaded by User:Magnus Manske)File:Stavenn Cephalophus maxwellii.jpg (uploaded by User:Stavenn )File:Nyalas male.jpg (uploaded by User:Magnus Manske). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family_Bovidae_six_species.jpg#/media/File:Family_Bovidae_six_species.jpg
“Pronghorn antelope”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pronghorn_antelope.jpg#/media/File:Pronghorn_antelope.jpg
Mouse deer: “Mouse-deer Singapore Zoo 2012” by Uspn (Bjørn Christian Tørrissen). – Own work; .. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mouse-deer_Singapore_Zoo_2012.JPG#/media/File:Mouse-deer_Singapore_Zoo_2012.JPG
“Moschus moschiferus in Plzen zoo (12.02.2011)” by Николай Усик / http://paradoxusik.livejournal.com/ – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Moschus_moschiferus_in_Plzen_zoo_(12.02.2011).jpg#/media/File:Moschus_moschiferus_in_Plzen_zoo_(12.02.2011).jpg
“Family Cervidae five species” by This image is a derivative work of the following images:File:PNSC Veado Campeiro Correndo.jpg (uploaded by User:Halleypo)File:RangiferTarandus.jpg (uploaded by User:Sydpolen)File:Red deer stag 2009 denmark.jpg (uploaded by User:Atomicbre)File:The barasingha.jpg (uploaded by aloshbennett)File:Dama dama 002.jpg (uploaded by User:Lily_M)) – This image is a derivative work of the following images:File:PNSC Veado Campeiro Correndo.jpg (uploaded by User:Halleypo)File:RangiferTarandus.jpg (uploaded by User:Sydpolen)File:Red deer stag 2009 denmark.jpg (uploaded by User:Atomicbre)File:The barasingha.jpg (uploaded by aloshbennett)File:Dama dama 002.jpg (uploaded by User:Lily_M)). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family_Cervidae_five_species.jpg#/media/File:Family_Cervidae_five_species.jpg