95% of all fossils are marine invertebrates

I found this claim in this Creationist YouTube video.

95% of all fossils are marine invertebrates.
Of the remaining 5%, 95% are algae and plant fossils.
95% of the remaining 0.25% are other invertebrates.
The remaining 0.0125% include all vertebrates (mostly fish).
(punctuation and capitalization mine)

Some more occurrences/variations of the claim:

At least 95 percent of all animal fossils are of marine invertebrates.


In the real world, about 95 percent of all fossils are marine invertebrates, mostly shellfish (i.e., clams). Of the remaining 5 percent, 95 percent are algae and plant fossils (0.05 x 0.95, or 4.75 percent of the total) and 5 percent (0.05 x 0.05, or 0.25 percent of the total) are insects and other non-marine invertebrates and vertebrates. Of the remaining 0.25 percent of the total, 95 percent are insects and other non-marine invertebrates and only 5 percent (0.05 x 0.0025, or 0.0125 percent of the total) are vertebrate fossils (mostly fish; and finally, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals).


This last quote has a source

Morris, J.D. (2003). Is the Big Bang Biblical? Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 108–109; and Morris, J.D. (1994). The Young Earth. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 70. Statistics provided by paleontologist Kurt P. Wise, Ph.D. Geology (Paleontology).

I found this claim in "The Young Earth" and partially in "Is the Big Bang Biblical" both (on Google books) without any references, so it seems to dead end with Morris. (Kurt Wise is apparently a prominent Young-Earth Creationist.)

The order of frequencies seems plausible to me (if leaving out trace fossils) but the break down of 5% of 5% of 5% feels a bit contrived. So, what's the relative representations of these families in the fossil record?

  • 7
    My questions would be; So? What's the point?
    – JasonR
    Jan 21, 2015 at 12:19
  • 2
    @Himarm Easy. Paleontologist don't use fossils themselves to date them. They use rock around them. But this is OT.
    – Euphoric
    Jan 21, 2015 at 15:35
  • 4
    I'd ask just what they consider to be fossils. Considering that chalk is composed of parts of marine organisms en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalk I'd say that has a lead in numbers. Are coal beds counted as plant fossils? Then consider how easily shells fossilize, and the way modern oysters &c form extensive beds, and their numbers seem both plausible and pointless.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 21, 2015 at 19:54
  • 2
    @user19555 According to icr.org/article/real-nature-fossil-record the 'point' is, "Among the vertebrates, most fossils are fish, again mostly marine creatures. Of the terrestrial fossils, by far most are plants. Land-dwelling animals, such as mammals and dinosaurs, are poorly represented in the fossil record. The majority of animals depicted on evolutionary fossil charts in textbooks, however, are land vertebrates. It is thought that a possible case for evolution can be made from them, but this does not accurately portray the real fossil record."
    – ChrisW
    Jan 22, 2015 at 7:21
  • 3
    @ChrisW I believe those claims (about fossil frequency) are roughly true, but it is only pop-sci presentations of the fossil evidence that focus on macroscopic land animals. Real fossil-driven evolutionary biology looks at the whole of the fossil record, so I think that "So? What's the point?" is still a valid question. The claim here is falsifiable and so meat for Skeptics, but color me suspicious that the people making the claim intend to use it to back up misleading arguments. Jan 22, 2015 at 17:55


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