Fossil Follies and Mysteries
Silently, fossils speak from the earth, requiring translation and interpretation by humans who didn’t see when they were laid to rest.
Beetle bling: The shiny blue scales of a weevil are still visible in a fossil after 49 million years, New Scientist claimed.
Tar pit puzzle: “The La Brea Tar Pits have stirred the imaginations of scientists and the public alike for over a century,” Science Daily writes. “But the amount of time it took for ancient animals to become buried in asphalt after enduring their gruesome deaths has remained a mystery.” Researchers found insect traces on the sesamoid bones and phalanges of herbivores, leading them to conclude the carcasses were exposed to the air for 17-20 weeks. Surprisingly, “Although carnivorans vastly outnumber the amount of mammalian herbivorans excavated from the tar pits, no insect damage was found on their bones.” Science Now‘s coverage included this typo: “fossils like this 35,000-foot bone of a prehistoric horse,” probably intending 35,000 years, not 35,000 feet; that would be a pretty big horse otherwise. The original paper is in PLoS One.
Transitional fleas: “Fleas are a group of highly specialized blood-feeding ectoparasites whose early evolutionary history is poorly known,” begins a paper in Current Biology by paleontologists from Russia, China and London. They claim to have found Cretaceous fossils that “greatly improves our understanding of the morphological transition to the highly specialized body plan of extant fleas.” The claim they are transitional relates primarily to gonad size, body size, and patterns of stiff body hairs. Since they have all the flea parts, though, the fossils could represent greater diversity in the past: “The new fossils, in conjunction with previous discoveries, highlight a broad diversity of ectoparasitic insects in the mid-Mesozoic.”
Transitional limbs: According to Science Daily, Yale scientists studied living mudskippers and salamanders to infer the evolutionary transition to land-based locomotion.
Why did animals with limbs win the race to invade land over those with fins? A new study comparing the forces acting on fins of mudskipper fish and on the forelimbs of tiger salamanders can now be used to analyze early fossils that spanned the water-to-land transition in tetrapod evolution, and further understand their capability to move on land.
They measured the forces on limbs and fins of the living animals, thinking it would help explain the motions of the dead:
Sandy Kawano said: “The transition from fins to limbs marks the most dramatic change in orientation of the locomotor forces from contact with the ground. Using these data we can now evaluate the locomotor capabilities of numerous important fossil taxa that spanned the water-to-land transition in tetrapod evolution. We hypothesise that the medial orientation of the forces on pectoral fins would result in unreasonably high bone stresses in early amphibious fish with fins, which would explain why the evolutionary invasion of land by vertebrates was accomplished instead by tetrapods with limbs with digits.“
Kawano never explained why mudskippers, still pushing themselves around with fins, never got the evolutionary message.
If one did not assume evolution from the get-go, would the conclusions make sense? Who would think that fresh, clean, iridescent scales on a fossil beetle are 49 million years old? The fleas represent greater diversity in the past; that’s devolution. The mudskippers are still doing fine without digits. Salamanders haven’t evolved, either. Why did larvae attack herbivores but not carnivores, if all the animals were sinking into the tar at the same time?
The silliest idea above is the notion that forces on a fin will turn it into a limb with fingers. Why don’t they try that as a controlled experiment in the lab? Put forces on a fish’s fin and watch it grow hands. This is so stupid it takes an evolutionist to believe it. Look how they hide their faith in passive voice verbs: “… unreasonably high bone stresses in early amphibious fish with fins, which would explain why the evolutionary invasion of land by vertebrates was accomplished instead by tetrapods with limbs with digits.” Was accomplished by. My, what an accomplishment! Where did the tetrapods with limbs with digits “emerge” from? As we all know from Darwin’s storybook fantasyland, stuff happens (9/22/09).
None of the conclusions jump out of the data. All of them require interpretation. Unfortunately, due to evolutionary indoctrination from kindergarten to PhD, the only lens provided to these scientists is the Darwinian blood-red monocle that fits over the left eye. It turns everything in nature into a left-leaning diorama red in tooth and claw. Scientists should open the right eye, take off the monocle, and see the world in living color with binocular vision.