Just how quickly can animals expand their geographical range? Yesterday I spoke incredulously about the young earth creationist’ claims that animals could depart an ark in the Middle East and make their way all the way to South America in just a few years (Glyptodonts, Armadillos and Ken Ham’s Hyper-Speciation Model). Take the armadillos for example. There are plenty of suitable habitats available for an armadillo in Asia and the Middle East. Why would all armadillos have migrated to South America and not a single one choose to stay behind in Asia, Africa, Europe or the Middle East?
Surely YECs would not predict a priori that armadillos would be found only in the New World if the ark landed in heart of the Old World. But our observational science – what Ken Ham says we should use – provides no evidence that armadillos have lived anywhere else. Remember there are no fossils and no other evidence that armadillos of any kind have every lived anywhere but in South and North America.
Imagine what the migration of a small mammal across the world would have been like. Any animal who would have made this 12,000+ mile migration would have encountered many obstacles including rivers, mountains, deserts, and colder climates. A small armadillo would have no interest in climbing over the Himalaya Mountains or forging the many large rivers of China, braving the cold regions of the Bering land bridge from Asia to Alaska, crossing the many rivers in North America and trekking through the tropical forests of Central America. Any wildlife biologists who has spent any time observing animal migration would tell you that it would take tens – and probably hundreds – of thousands of years for a small mammal population to accomplish this type of geographical dispersal if it could happen at all.
Just consider the actual migration of the nine-banded armadillo in the USA. These armadillos have few predators and can adapt to many habitats. This animal should be more capable of expanding it geographical range than most species. And yet, as of the early 1800s the nine-banded armadillo had not yet crossed over the Rio Grande river into Texas despite being common in Mexico. When it did it progressively expanded its geographical range reaching up into Oklahoma by the early 1900s and down into the Florida, the latter migration with the help of humans. It has now expanded above Oklahoma and through the southern states.
This expansion of the populations of nine-banded armadillos is considered to be an example of very rapid small animal migration. And yet it has taken nearly 200 years for these quick-reproducing animals to invade several states. Compare this observed migration rate (ie. Ken Ham’s observational science which remember is the only data that can be trusted) with the hypothetical super-fast migration of these animals in the YEC post-flood migration scenario.
Fast but not fast enough!
When I read about the migration of armadillos I immediately recognized that even this very fast observed migration was still far far too slow for the creationist’ hypothesis. Ironically though I then ran across a YEC article that reports the very same story of armadillo population expansion but tries to use armadillos to make exactly the opposite point. After reporting the migration of nine-banded armadillos into Texas and through the southeast the author, Lael Weinberger of an article entitled “Amazing armoured armadillos of the Americas” makes the following statement:
For creationists, the observed rapid spread of the nine-banded armadillo in recent history is a great case study of the dispersal of animals that happened after the Flood, as the earth was repopulated with animals. The geographical spread of some types of animals, as in the case of the armadillo, can happen with astonishing rapidity by both natural means and human assistance.
Just 200 year to expand over the southern USA is pretty impressive I will admit. But, how is this a great case study for the creationist? Much of the expansion has been due to humans which carried them to Florida and provided railroad cars for them to hitch rides on. Just after the Flood humans were limited to the area around Babel according to the YEC timeline and could be of no help to get armadillos across mountains, rivers and cold northern climates. It seems to me that the fact it has taken nearly 200 years to spread as far as they have into areas that are all good habitats means that they have moved remarkably slowly compared to the expectations of the YEC post-flood migration hypothesis.
If armadillos are a case study which represents some of the fastest migrating animals and they don’t even help the creationist, what then are they to do with other animals that have far more restrictive habitat demands and thus would be less inclined to move from a good habitat into a much poorer one? The long-distance dispersal of animals after the Flood from a single location and radiating out over the world has never found any support in the fossil record nor made any biological sense. This idea has received much criticism from secular and Christian scientists. Most recently Age of Rocks wrote about the problem of kangaroo fossils only found in Australia and the dispersal of animals to that island continent. Many of the same problems that I have highlighted with armadillos exist for kangaroos and hundreds of other animals. Likewise the armadillo problem is just an extension of the same problem that I wrote about with ungulates in South America last year – The Lost World of South American Ungualte: A YEC Ungulate Problem.