Exploding Fish

August 4, 2022
2 min read

Did you hear the story of the exploding whale? Some of you may have seen YouTube videos of whale carcasses exploding on beaches. The most famous in my mind was in 2004 in Taiwan, when marine researchers towed a 50-ton whale carcass through the downtown. Suddenly, it exploded, covering buildings, cars, and people with whale debris!

This phenomenon occurs not only in whales but fish in general when the build up of gases reach a critical point during the decomposition process. As a result, fish remains are usually broken apart and they are nearly completely decayed before they can be buried and preserved. Even the bones of whale carcasses are scavenged by worms who eat out the marrow, so that they eventually disintegrate.

All this is to say that fish fossils are difficult to form and are rarely preserved in modern lakes and other underwater settings. But why were so many preserved in the past?

Let’s look at a single rock formation in the US, the Green River Formation, where there is estimated to be over a million fish fossils preserved. Many of them were found completely intact (not exploded)!  Some of the notable fossils are: fish caught in the act of partially eating other fish, fish waste, and a school of 259 fish frozen in place.

Experimental tests show that these details1,2, specifically finding intact fish waste, proves that these fish must have been buried very quickly, in less than 24 hours. So, a gradual or slow geological process cannot account for what is observed in the rock record. But what can cause a rapid underwater burial for millions of fish?

The Bible does outline a rapid catastrophic watery event that could explain this: Noah’s flood.

  1. Whitmore, J.H., Experimental Fish Taphonomy with a Comparison to Fossil Fishes, Ph.D. Dissertation, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, 2003.
  1. Marie Cueille, Emily Green, Christopher J. Duffin, Claudia Hildebrandt, Michael J. Benton. Fish and crab coprolites from the latest Triassic of the UK: From Buckland to the Mesozoic Marine Revolution. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2020.07.011



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