Reindeer Eyes Designed for the Arctic

Reindeer Eyes Designed for the Arctic

The eyes of reindeer, also known as caribou, are different from those of any other mammal. The retinal tissue known as tapetum lucidum in reindeer eyes changes color from gold in the summer to vivid blue in the winter. Many nocturnal mammals have this mirror-like layer that reflects light, causing “eye shine” and allowing the photoreceptors to sense dim light. Only in reindeer eyes does it change color with the seasons.

Lichens are a main staple of the reindeer diet and are very common in northern latitudes where reindeer live. A lichen known as “reindeer moss” is an off-white color, making it difficult to see in the snow. However, snow reflects ultraviolet (UV) light, and the lichen absorbs it. The changing color of the retinal tissue is designed to make the lichen stand in dark contrast to the white snow.

UV light damages the eyes, so the cornea and lens suppress the UV radiation in most animals. Some of us have experienced temporary snow blindness caused by UV light, and excessive exposure can lead to cataracts. However, reindeer eyes are designed to admit up to 60% of UV light. Reindeer moss has “impressive antioxidant properties,” which may help prevent UV light damage. Also, reindeer feed on the buds and leaves of Arctic willow and dwarf birch, which have high levels of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which helps repair damaged cells.

From September to April, animals such as reindeer living above 70 degrees latitude experience the violet-blue of twilight for 8-11 hours daily. Reindeer eyes display another example of a specialized design unique to one species, giving the animal tools for survival in its environment. Predatory white wolves are well camouflaged in the snow but appear relatively dark to a reindeer detecting UV light.

The color-changing tapetum, unique to the reindeer species, is difficult to explain by gradual chance mutations. We suggest it is another example of how God has produced special equipment to enable an animal to survive in a challenging environment.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Reindeer and the quest for Scottish enlichenment” in i-Perception, Sage Journals

Arctic Whales Called Narwhals

Arctic Whales Called Narwhals

When they see an unusual physical characteristic in an animal, evolutionists try to find a sexual explanation for it. If your religious belief is “survival of the fittest” and reproduction is a major part of explaining who is fit and who isn’t, you look for sexual explanations for everything in the animal kingdom. We see an example of why sexual selection is not always the complete answer in Arctic whales called narwhals.

Narwhals can weigh up to 3000 pounds and reach over 15 feet long. Their unusual feature is the world’s longest tooth. The narwhal’s tooth is a spiraling, pointed tusk that can reach nine feet long. Since the tooth appears in male narwhals, evolutionists have said that it’s just another example of sexual selection. Females pick the males with the longest tusk. That explanation is similar to cases like the peacock, where the males have elaborate feathers, which they use to attract females. Another idea is that narwhals use the tusks as weapons in conflicts between males. However, no one has ever seen the tusks used that way, and no dead narwhals have been found with a wound that appears to have come from being stabbed by a tusk.

Researchers at the Smithsonian working with the Harvard School of Dental Medicine have studied the tusks under an electron microscope. They discovered millions of tubules leading from the surface to nerve endings deep inside the tusk. The researchers believe this system allows narwhals to detect changes in water pressure, temperature, and salinity. That information would enable the narwhals to tell when water is starting to freeze, allowing them to avoid getting trapped. It also may help them locate food. Of course, that leaves a question of why females don’t have tusks, but since they travel in groups, it may be that the tusks identify the leader.

We know that the Arctic whales called narwhals have a tusk like no other animal. We know it is a tooth in structure and form, but how it became an integral part of the species is a mystery to evolutionists. We suggest it is another example of God’s design in which every animal has what it needs to survive in a given environment. The Arctic Ocean is a place where narwhals might need special survival equipment.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Chronicle Review Volume 52, Issue 37, page B16.

North Pole Ice Melting

North Pole Ice Melting

Scientists have recently conducted a fascinating study of the North Pole region. The Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet. With North Pole ice melting, the question is, “What effect will this warming have on Earth’s climate?”

To investigate that question, The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) involved 600 scientists and experts from around the world. They equipped the icebreaker RV Polarstern with a large number of scientific tools and accommodations. The plan was to freeze the ship into an ice floe and let it drift for a year to study the North Pole’s climate as never before.

The scientists did much of the work on the ice floe itself, even setting up camp there. Sometimes they fell through but were saved by their protective flotation clothing. They gathered large amounts of data, which will take years to analyze thoroughly. It will give a wealth of scientific information about the changes that are taking place on our planet.

The team started the project in October of 2019, but by July 30, the floe had broken up, and the Polarstern was in open water. They decided to head directly to the North Pole. On August 19, still in open water, the ship arrived at the pole and found very little ice.

Summer of 2020 ranks as the hottest ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere. It may seem that the North Pole ice melting is too far away to cause concern for us, but changes of this magnitude at the pole will bring changes in weather all over the globe.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Discover magazine, January/February, 2021.

Flash-Frozen Extinct Species

Flash-Frozen Extinct Species

One of the weaknesses of evolution’s explanation of the origin of all living things is that it is built on an assumption called uniformitarianism. The idea is that “the present is the key to the past” meaning that no process operated in the past that is not going on today. If there have been global catastrophes wiping out most living creatures, then the theories of gradualism have a problem with explaining life’s origins. Flash-frozen extinct species indicate global catastrophes.

Many years ago, we reported on the 1979 find of an extinct steppe bison mummy near Fairbanks, Alaska. The perfectly preserved corpse had been frozen for thousands of years. The gold miner who discovered the mummy called it “Blue Babe” after the mythical Paul Bunyon’s ox. That was because exposure to air caused it to turn blue due to iron phosphate. Blue Babe (pictured) is now on display at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

As the permafrost melts in Arctic areas, people are finding more frozen animals, including woolly mammoths and woolly rhinos. The latest one is a cave bear found on the Lyakhovsky Islands in Russia. Once again, the specimen is complete with all of the soft tissues intact.

These animals were preserved in a state we don’t see happening today.
They seem to be flash-frozen, not just preserved by falling into a crevasse in a glacier. All of the animals found are extinct, but studies of their DNA and their preservation conditions are opening doors to the scientific research of the past.

As scientists find more flash-frozen extinct species, there will be revisions of theories about the history of life on Earth. One positive aspect of global warming is that it will expand our understanding of life in the past.

— John N. Clayton © 2020