Dinosaur Triggers and Other Fossil Foibles
Instant dinosaurs: just add mountains. Does this and other fossil news make sense?
Mountains into dinosaurs: Here’s the headline on PhysOrg: “Mountains, seaway triggered North American dinosaur surge.” The idea is not that mountains made dinosaurs make more babies, but that North American mountain uplifts made dinosaurs evolve into more species. “We hypothesize that such isolation facilitated rapid speciation and increased diversity in these animals,” one of the authors of a paper on PLoS ONE stated. The paper’s title makes it clear: they believe “Mountain Building Triggered Late Cretaceous North American Megaherbivore Dinosaur Radiation.” They explicitly pointed to geological “triggers” like mountain uplift and seaways as a “causal mechanism” to explain the diversity of late Cretaceous dinosaurs. Their study of the timing of geological events was performed “to identify correlative factors that may have driven lineage diversification at more inclusive levels.”
There’s a well-known maxim in science, “correlation is not causation.” Did they explain how the presence of a mountain or sea barrier “triggered” beneficial mutations to be selected for the formation of new species of dinosaurs? Did they evaluate other animal groups with their hypothesis that mountains trigger speciation? No; they didn’t even compare other dinosaur groups. “Application of these results to other dinosaur groups contemporaneously living in Laramidia is an interesting prospect. The major hurdle to such comparative studies is insufficient fossil records of other clades, although based on limited data theropods may exhibit similar trends.”
Volcanoes into teeth: Another use of the phrase “evolutionary trigger” can be found in an article by National Geographic about fossil rodents with “supertough teeth.” According to reporter Brian Handwerk, two new fossil rodent species from South America “arose during a rodent evolutionary explosion, which occurred after their ancestors had likely rafted to the continent from Africa on floating debris about 3.5 million years ago.” While visions of exploding rodents may not be a pretty picture, Handwek was excited. He claims that South America was an “evolutionary hot spot” 40 million years ago. What was the trigger for the “rodent evolutionary explosion”? One paleontologist explained, “frequent volcanism, which can make soils rougher, could be an evolutionary trigger for hypsodonty” (heavily enameled crowns). It could be, sure. Anything could be. It could also be an evolutionary trigger to wear the teeth down and make them go extinct. There are volcanoes all over the world; where is the corroborating evidence that animals living near volcanoes evolve supertough teeth?
Speaking of tough teeth, did you know your teeth are as hard as shark’s teeth? We don’t need to feel inadequate, Science Now reported.
Empty Cambrian promise: Another team publishing in PLoS ONE described exquisite soft-tissue preservation of Middle Cambrian arthropods fossilized in what is now Sweden. The first paragraph of their paper teased, “The famous ‘Orsten’ taxa have provided significant insights into the Cambrian biota and early Phanerozoic metazoan evolution.” But the only insight they gave into evolution was waffling speculation, stated in the last paragraph as follows:
A speculative explanation for the appearance of musculature in the labrum from an evolutionary point of view is that opening of the buccal cavity could take preference over a more sophisticated armament, allowing also a flattening of the labrum. The lack of dorso-ventral muscles in the investigated phosphatocopines may imply that these muscles appeared at a later stage in the evolution of crustaceans; however, it could also simply be a preservational artefact.
Gap gabbing: Nature News announced a fossil insect discovery from Devonian strata in Belgium, said to be 370 million years old, that is “An insect to fill the gap” between the record-holder at 400 million years and the more abundant fossils from the Carboniferous at 325 million in the evolutionary timeline. “A complete insect fossil from the Devonian period has long been sought,” the article by William A. Shear began. “The finding of a candidate may improve our patchy understanding of when winged insects evolved.” A closer look at the article, however, a clear six-legged critter already fully functioning, too small to “fill the gap” that worries paleontologists (Shear later said it “narrowed” the gap). Mostly, he was concerned that so few paleontologists are even looking for fossils that can show insect evolution. The authors of the paper in Nature (Garrouste et al., “A complete insect from the Late Devonian period, Nature 488, 02 Aug 2012, pp. 82–85, doi:10.1038/nature11281) did not even mention evolution. The editor’s summary of the paper states, “The early evolutionary history of the insects is obscure.” So what gap was Shear referring to that this insect filled?
Over and over, we see evolutionists cheating with the data, claiming that the latest fossil will “shed light on evolution.” When will they see the light? Those who already have the light don’t need whatever it is they’re shedding.