Discovering Mammals, Dead and Alive
Two mammal discoveries made the news this week: a cuddly one and a fossil. Do they tell evolutionary tales?
Teddy bear kitty: Kids will love the look of this cute mammal called the oliguito discovered in Ecuador (see picture on Nature News). With its rounded ears, smiley mouth, bear-like fur and large beady eyes, it looks like a cross between a teddy bear and a cat, but the skittish nocturnal carnivore is a long-lost member of the raccoon family, about 2.5 feet long and weighing two pounds, living in the cloud forests of the Andes.
The olinguito is being called the first mammal discovery in the western hemisphere in 35 years, but it’s not really a new find. In fact, there have been pelts in museums for a century, and it was exhibited alive in some zoos in 1967, but misidentified as a variety of olingo. In 2006, several were seen and captured in the wild; after genetic studies, the paper announcing them as a new species was only made today. Its scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina.
The recognition that it’s a new species is being called a “major discovery” by the BBC News; for being a new carnivore, National Geographic added the adjectives “incredibly rare” and “spectacular.” Thousands of them are believed to be living in Ecuador. None of the main science media, including New Scientist, mentioned evolution.
Fossil rat: By contrast, the e-word evolution permeates a paper in Science announcing a fossil mammal in Jurassic strata dubbed Rugosodon (wrinkle-tooth), said to have lived 160 million years ago. The news media, like National Geographic, were all set with their artwork to tell readers how they evolved: “New Jurassic find in China provides fresh evidence of early mammal evolution.” The animal, though, looks thoroughly mammalian, well-adapted and successful in its ecological niche, though it would have been surrounded by towering behemoths, the dinosaurs. Evolutionist reporter Ker Than wrote,
The discovery of a 160-million-year-old fossil of a rodent-like creature is helping shed light on how one of the most evolutionarily successful mammalian groups to ever live gained dominance.
Dubbed Rugosodon eurasiaticus, the creature bore a superficial resemblance to a small rat or a chipmunk and was an early member of the group of mammals known as multituberculates.
Ranging in size from mouse to beaver, multituberculates, known only from fossils, “often considered the most successful, diversified, and long-lasting mammals in natural history,” Wikipedia says – even surviving the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction. In the evolutionary timeline, they eventually died out about 35 million years ago and were supplanted by rodents. The name comes from cusps on their cheek teeth. Paleontologists believe some multituberculates lived in burrows and others in trees. The discoverers believe this species lived on the ground. A PhysOrg article explains,
“Some could jump, some could burrow, others could climb trees and many more lived on the ground,” said co-author Zhe-Xi Luo of the University of Chicago.
“The tree-climbing multituberculates and the jumping multituberculates had the most interesting ankle bones, capable of ‘hyper-back-rotation’ of the hind feet.”
The evolutionary story has some wrinkles: for one, extraordinary stasis. This is called a “basal” member of Multituberculata. It should be one one of the most primitive of the group, but Ker Than wrote in the NG article,
Scientists had known previously that some younger multituberculates living about 65 million years ago could hyper-rotate their ankles.
“Now, lo and behold, we now find that Rugosodon, which lived 100 million years earlier, has exactly the same joint!” Luo said.
So this ground-dweller already had a trait scientists assumed was used by later tree-climbers. How to explain that, evolutionarily speaking? PhysOrg ended,
Researchers said the tooth and ankle adaptations likely evolved very early in the creatures’ existence, helping them to become so long-lived as a group.
But why would evolution provide a trait not needed except by later members of the group? They had other traits that made them very successful, Nature News wrote:
Rugosodon also had an incredibly flexible spine, giving the creature great capacity to both twist left and right and to bend back and forth at the waist. The shape and arrangement of the animal’s teeth suggest, on the basis of comparisons with modern mammals, that Rugosodon consumed a mixture of fruits, seeds and animals, including worms, insects and even small vertebrates.
It appears that Rugosodon was an advanced member of its kind already, in the early days of its clade. If it were a common ancestor, Nature News would not have said we need to look for it:
Possibly of more importance, it gives palaeontologists a better sense of what the evolutionary precursors of multituberculates might have looked like — ideas that can be confirmed only by future fossil finds.
A look into the paper in Science shows the authors using “convergence” to explain some similar traits in unrelated subclades. They call this the most ancestral member yet found –
Rugosodon provides the only information on skeletal characters for the Paulchoffatiidae, the basalmost multituberculate family, for assessing the condition of the common ancestor of all multituberculates.
– yet the only ancestral trait they pointed to was the hyper-rotating ankle, already fully developed with “exactly the same joint” as members thought to have lived 100 million years later. Where, exactly, is any evolutionary progression? What is seen is remarkable conservation:
Despite a great taxonomic diversity and a wide range of feeding adaptations over the long history of multituberculates, the morphology of their ankles is remarkably conserved. The highly mobile tarsal joints are well suited for foot functions on uneven substrates (including arboreality) and are apparently versatile enough to be retained in fossorial and saltatorial forms. Major diversifications of multituberculates in the Cretaceous and Paleogene have a structural underpinning in ankle bones of their common ancestor of the Jurassic, for which Rugosodon provides fresh fossil evidence.
Being translated, this “common ancestor” emerged already well-adapted with traits that remained “remarkably conserved” over 100 million years – the ability to dig, jump, climb trees and eat all kinds of food – with versatile feet and teeth well suited for successful living.
Evolutionists are so shameless. They can stare at these two beautifully designed animals and still visualize the smiling face of Darwin, who is destined to become the Cheshire Cat of 21st century biology. OK, where is the evolution? Where is it? Look, look, look! Read the paper. It is nowhere to be found. These are wonderfully complete, versatile, well-adapted mammals. They are not trying to evolve into something else. This alleged “common ancestor” already had everything. How did it “arise”? How did it “emerge”? By what mutations did all these traits magically appear, only to stay “remarkably conserved” for 100 million years? There’s no ancestry here, no evolutionary progress. Now, they tell us the ancestor will be found in the future – another worthless Darwin promissory note. The evidence shows design, not evolution! The evolution-talk is clueless, useless, worthless. The sooner we can eject these storytellers from the science department, the better.