Evidence for Design in Symbiosis

Evidence for Design in Symbiosis
Nymphidium leucosia caterpillar being tended by Crematogaster ants

The natural world is full of examples of two species living together in a way that each benefits the other. This mutualistic relationship is known as symbiosis. In some cases, the species are totally dependent on the relationship for their survival. In many plant/animal relationships, the animal depends on a plant for food, and the plant depends on the animal for pollination or the spreading of seeds. We see evidence for design in symbiosis.

One of the most interesting symbiotic relationships is between ants and butterflies. Scientists refer to the caterpillar in this relationship as being myrmecophilous, which means “ant-loving.” Dr. Philip Devries has written several articles in scientific journals about the caterpillars of certain butterfly species and their symbiosis with ants. The caterpillars feed on the nectar of croton trees, but they have a mortal enemy in the form of wasps. The wasp will find a caterpillar, kill it by stinging and then eat it. If ants are present, they will drive off the wasp and protect the caterpillar. Devries has covered some croton trees with ants, and they will have many caterpillars, but trees without ants will have very few caterpillars.

So the ants benefit the caterpillars, but what do the ants gain from this relationship? The caterpillars have organs on their posterior which extrude a clear liquid containing amino acids but virtually no sugar. The croton tree has a secretion that is 33% sugar but has very little nutritional value. The ants get vital nutrition from the caterpillar even though what they get is not sweet.

The caterpillar has other ways of attracting ants, including an organ on its back that secretes an ant pheromone that chemically attracts them. The caterpillar also has an organ that attracts ants by sending sound vibrations through the wood of the tree. Because of this feature, Dr. Devries coined the term “singing caterpillars.”

One of the great challenges to evolutionists is explaining how such a complex system of symbiosis happened by chance mutations. The more we study such relationships, the more different systems of design we see in the natural world. The more relationships we see, the more difficult it is not to recognize evidence for design in symbiosis. It speaks to us about God’s wisdom and design that allows the biological world to exist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

An article by Dr. Devries appeared in Scientific American, October 1992, pages 76-82.

Self-Awareness Test Passed by a Fish

Self-Awareness Test Passed by Cleaner Wrasse

One of the indicators that scientists use to measure evolutionary development is a test that determines whether an animal has an awareness of itself. The test involves placing a mirror in front of the organism and then observing the animal to see if it gives evidence that it recognizes that what it sees in the mirror is an image of itself. A recent report says that a fish can pass this self-awareness test.

Self-awareness has been used to categorize animals as having higher intelligence than others. Scientists have considered the mirror test to be the “gold standard.” Applying that test they have determined that great apes, bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, Eurasian magpies, and Asian elephants are all very intelligent and therefore highly evolved. Now a fish known as the cleaner wrasse passes the self-awareness test and must be added to the list.

Researchers in Germany placed a mark on the four-inch fish in a location that could only be seen in a mirror. The cleaner wrasses checked their reflection multiple times and then tried to remove the mark by rubbing their bodies on hard surfaces. With no mirrors, the fish didn’t try to remove the mark. When the mark was placed on the mirror, the fish ignored it.

We should note that the cleaner wrasse survives by inspecting larger fish for parasites and dead tissue. The larger fish waits patiently while the wrasse cleans it by eating what it finds. This mutual relationship protects the health of the larger fish while providing food for the wrasse. Symbiotic relationships like that can be more easily explained by design than by evolutionary theory. Since the wrasse is designed to look for unwanted detritus on the bodies of other fish, perhaps that is why it is keen to notice marks on its own body.

If self-awareness shows high intelligence, we must now add a fish to the list of intelligent mammals and birds. Dr. Alex Jordan reported that the fish “behaviorally fulfills all criteria of the mirror test.” Dr. Jordan says that either the species is self-aware or the gold standard test needs updating.

–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

Reference: The Week, March 1, 2019, page 20.

Coevolution – Stretching Truth to the Limit

Coevolution and Angraecum sesquipedale
One of the interesting characteristics of modern-day evolutionists is how far they will stretch credibility to support the model they assume to be true. Carl Zimmer in his book Evolution–The Triumph of an Idea gives a classic example of such a stretch when he calls our attention to an orchid found in Madagascar named Angraecum sesquipedale. It’s a story of coevolution.

You may recall from high school biology that flowers have both female organs called pistils and male organs called anthers. To cross-pollinate from one flower to another, the pollen from one plant must go to the “eggs” of another plant of the same species. The problem, in this case, is that the orchid has an 11 to 16 inch (28-40 cm) shaft at the bottom of which is a pool of nectar. It is far out of the reach of the usual pollinators of Madagascar. So how does pollination occur? It turns out that there is a microscopic moth that does the pollinating. What is unusual about this moth is that it has a tongue that is coiled up like a watch-spring taking up virtually no space. When the moth uncurls the tongue, it is 16 inches (40 cm) long. While the tongue is drinking in the nectar, the head and body of the moth are pollinating the orchid.

This is classic symbiosis. The orchid cannot reproduce without the moth, and the moth would starve to death without the orchid. The question is, “How could such a relationship came into existence?” Evolutionists would have us believe that the orchid evolved the shaft, the nectar pool, and the placement of the pollen at precisely the same time that the moth evolved the watch-spring tongue. At some point in the process, the two came together, and the symbiotic relationship was born.

The orchid and the moth are just one of a vast number of symbiotic relationships between species. Some of those mutual relationships are between predators and prey with physical characteristics that allow both to survive. Biologists say that it is just a matter of coevolution. However, as our understanding of genetics has improved, the difficulty in explaining these symbiotic relationships has gotten worse. Not only are the physical characteristics needed, but the genetic combinations must be very specific.

You will find more details on this interesting subject in F. LaGard Smith’s book Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem published by Westbow Press.
–John N. Clayton © 2018