Polystrate Fossils

Polystrate Fossils are fossils that cross multiple layers of strata.  More often than not they are fossil trees; however they can also be fossil bones of animals or fish as well.  Young Earth Creationists contend that such fossils provide very strong evidence that the whole geological time chart, with its millions of years, is invalidated by such things.  Evolutionists disagree, saying that they are usually in situ (or in their natural growth position) because some of them clearly possess some, or most of their roots.

The articles below provide readers with more details to make up ones mind as to which view is better represented by the facts.

A Classic Polystrate Fossil by John D. Morris.  This article talks about fossil trees in association with coal seams and how such fossils go against millions of years of (slow) deposition.

The "Fossil Forests" of Nova Scotia  This article looks closely at a number of instances of polystrate fossil trees that were recorded by Dawson and Brown.  The author goes into detail as to why he believes that the trees are not in situ, but rather transported by floodwaters, and why he concluded that only about 1 in 50 upright fossil trees possess roots with attached rootlets.  He also examines in detail one such tree that did posses both roots and rootlets: this tree is discussed in Part Two of this  paper.  The author also provides evidence that these deposits were made by ocean currents, as opposed to rivers, or river estuaries and discusses various types of marine fossils found in this strata.  One of  the trees discussed in detail was 15 feet long.  Two others were 25 and 40 feet long respectively.  Fragmentation of stigmaria roots is also discussed, as well as the pros and cons of the autochthonous vs allochthonous deposition of coal, and whether it is the result of Peat swamp and forest growth or organic sedimentary deposits that resulted because of a worldwide flood.  Brief mention is made of the fact that very similar strata is found in the United States and Europe as well.

Upright Trees in Coal: This brief article discusses the fact that a number of documented instances have verified that upright trees are sometimes found going through coal seams that are between 1-3 feet thick.  A drawing of one of these by Williamson had NO traces of roots.  The Drawing is included.  The implications of this suggest that coal seams are not the result of Peat Bogs, but rather rapidly deposited (organic) sediments.

Polystrate Tree Fossils by Andrew MacRrae: This article is written from an old-earth viewpoint.  It is a summary of John William Dawson's views regarding the upright fossil trees of Joggins, Nova Scotia.  Dawson believed that many of the upright trees in the Joggins strata were "in situ", or in their original positions of growth; however he also readily admitted that others were (obviously) not, since they were buried at all angles to the strata.  Dawson published an in-depth book on the Nova Scotia strata called Acadian Geology.  The first edition appeared in 1855 and three later editions followed.  Dawson was also a Christian and he did not accept the idea that life evolved apart from the aid and direction of a Creator.

Why Polystrate Fossils are a Problem for (old earth) geologists to simply explain away.  This is CreationWiki's Response to the above article by Andrew MacRae.  This article states very clearly why such fossils are a Major Problem for uniformitarian geology and the millions of years mindset: a belief that the theory of evolution NEEDS to remain a viable theory.  

See also The Age of the Earth for more on why Evolution NEEDS an OLD earth. 

Polystrate Fossils and the Creation Evolution Controversy by Joe Deweese and Bert Thompson, Ph.D..  This article contends that in a great many instances where fossil trees exist, sedimentation must have been very rapid.  In this regard, the authors discuss a 25 meter long tree documented by Fairholme that was inclined at an angle of 40 degrees to the strata, and intersecting at least 10 different strata layers.  The authors also provide various other examples of polystrate fossil trees which demonstrate that very rapid deposition and burial must have occurred.  The authors also discuss the fact that uprooted trees can be "transported and deposited upright" by mud flows, and that this phenomenon was actually observed at Mt. St. Helens when it erupted in 1980.

CreationWiki's Joggins Nova Scotia page: Among other things, what looks to be like the remains of a 30 foot fossil tree was discovered there recently by Ian Juby.  The phenomenon of negative geotropism is also briefly discussed, as well as its implications: i.e. that the roots were floating in place while they were being rapidly buried.  

See also: The Cliffs of Joggins by Ian Juby.

The Underclays of Joggins A detailed analysis of Coal Groups 1-12 based on the writings of Dawson and Logan.  The author provides evidence which suggests allochthonous deposition for the underclays, as opposed to deposition in place of growth (i.e. "in situ").

Evowiki's Polystrate Fossil Page: This page presents both the in situ hypothesis, as well as the Creationist rapid deposition viewpoints.  Links are included in the text and below.

The Yellowstone Petrified Forests, by Dr. Coffin presents a very detailed analysis of the fossil trees of Yellowstone National Park.  Dr. Coffin believes that the fossil trees of Yellowstone were transported by floodwaters, as opposed to being buried in the place of their growth.  Catastrophic uprooting and subsequent burial of trees from the Mt. St. Helens eruptions is also discussed.

Selected Quotes by John Calder on the Joggins Section. 

After Williamson, 
A Monograph on the Morphology and Histology of Stigmaria Ficoides, 
1887, p. 13. 
Full Size Image


Selected Quotes by Lesquereux with regard to floating and fragmented root deposits found in the coal strata of Pennsylvania.  These quotes are taken from Part Two of "The 'Fossil Forests' of Nova Scotia" article above.

Note: The drawings above are from Upright Trees in Coal  and The "Fossil Forests" of Nova ScotiaThe images are also linked to these articles -- at the section where they are discussed.