November 7, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Fantastic Fossils Challenge Paradigms

A flood of amazing fossils from around the world has hit the news lines recently.  We’ll list these non-dinosaur fossils briefly, with links for those who want to investigate.

Mammals

Horse with foal (PhysOrg):  An exquisitely-preserved fossil of a four-toed horse, complete with foal in its uterus and associated tissues, has been found in Germany.  It was unearthed 15 years ago but not studied in detail till now.  Live Science has a photo of the fossil, and claims that bacteria growing on the soft tissues preserved their impressions.  The horse is alleged to be 47 million years old.  It had “surprising reproductive similarities with today’s horses,” the researchers found.  “The reproductive similarities between ancient and modern-day horses might seem surprising, given the differences in the animals’ size and anatomy.”  The horse was about the size of a fox terrier.

Amazing FactsCompletely preserved skeletons of fossil horses are rare,” MacFadden told Live Science. “Usually, they’re fragmented and the bones are all dissociated. If you find a skeleton with a preserved foal inside, that indicates exceptional preservation, which is normally not found in the fossil record.”

Pygmy mammoth (Live Science): Tusks in a cliff indicate that mammoths swam to California’s Channel Islands earlier than thought, before humans got there.  Sea level must have been lower for these beasts to reach the islands that are now 26 miles offshore.  This also challenges the idea that climate change killed off this species; they must have lived in a period warmer than the present.

Backyard mastodon (PhysOrg): An Argentine man had a surprise; he found a mastodon while digging in his back yard.

Siberian bison mummy (Science Daily): The most complete mummy of a steppe bison has been found in Siberia. “The Yukagir bison mummy, as it is named, has a complete brain, heart, blood vessels and digestive system, although some organs have shrunk significantly over time. The necropsy of this unique mummy showed a relatively normal anatomy with no obvious cause of death. However, the lack of fat around abdomen of the animal makes researchers think that the animal may have died from starvation.”

Giant Cretaceous groundhog (Science Daily):  A large rodent that ran with dinosaurs named Vintana (“luck”) will “shake up current views on the mammalian evolutionary tree,” the article says.  The original paper in Nature calls it a case of “remarkable mosaicism.”  Live Science calls its ear “primitive yet specialized“.  Sid Perkins in Science Magazine notes that it was no primitive creature: it was agile, fast, had a good sense of smell, and could bite with twice the force of rodents its size.  Even though Science Daily promises that Vintana “provides new and important insights into early mammalian evolution,” Dr. David Krause (Stony Brook University) “emphasizes that a major question remains for scientists: How did such a peculiar creature evolve?”  Noting its “super senses,” National Geographic was more confident about evolution in general:

The story of evolution is one of stops and starts, of successful accidents and many dead ends. But nothing lives and dies in isolation, and the same chapters that included Vintana also featured the creatures that would eventually evolve into whales, bats, cats, and humans.

Walking kanga-rabbit (Science Magazine): Extinct mammals called strethurines (short-faced giant kangaroos) appear to have been bipedal, walking one step at a time, instead of hopping.  Living kangaroos are more slender, allowing some species to travel at 60 km per hour.  Science Daily‘s article shows a drawing of a walking creature with a rabbit-like face.  See also New Scientist.  Only Live Science speculated about how strethurines evolved: “for the most part, the group we refer to as Macropodoidea (kangaroos, wallabies and their relatives) have evolved to [support] bipedal hopping locomotion, perhaps more than once,” a quoted expert says.

Living fossil tenrec (Live Science): The tenrec, a small mammal in Madagascar resembling an opossum, can hibernate for at least 9 months, leading some evolutionists to ask whether this is how mammals survived through the Cretaceous impact that killed the dinosaurs.  “I regard the common tenrec as a living fossil,” one researcher said—a case of “phylogenetic inertia.”

Jurassic euharamiyidans (Nature): “The phylogeny of Allotheria, including Multituberculata and Haramiyida, remains unsolved and has generated contentious views on the origin and earliest evolution of mammals,” the paper begins.  “Here we report three new species of a new clade, Euharamiyida, based on six well-preserved fossils from the Jurassic period of China.”  The species  indicate the “early divergence of mammals,” the headline says.  Six “well-preserved” specimens show details of tooth morphology.  The “cosmopolitan” distribution of species of these animals implies “homologous acquisition of many craniodental and postcranial features in the two groups.”

Birds

Dodo scan (Science Daily): A new detailed scan of the only known dodo skeleton has been reported.  The scans, performed in South Africa, “provide an insight into how the flightless dodo may have evolved its giant size,” the article claims; “dodos open a new window upon an evolutionary experiment in rapid increase in body size and shift in locomotor mode, cut short by human-induced ecosystem destruction.”

Moa beta (Science Daily):  The extinct giant birds of New Zealand went extinct before human population became large, a new study finds.  At most, 2,500 people were living on the islands when they hunted the moa down to a population of zero.  A researcher at the U of Otago feels this can explain other megafauna extinctions, such as the giant sloths and mammoths of North America and giant marsupials of Australia.  It “shows that population size can no longer be used as an argument against human involvement in extinctions elsewhere.”

Insects

Insect amber (Science Daily): Ryan McKeller at U of Alberta is trying to piece together the ecology of insects in the age of dinosaurs.  He thinks that “New techniques for investigating very tiny pieces of fragile amber buried in dinosaur bonebeds could close the gaps in knowledge about the ecology of the dinosaurs.”  What are these gaps?  “It means scientists can sample at a finer scale, and still close some gaps in the past, especially regarding insect evolution, said McKellar.”  No proto-insects were described in the article.

Insect evolution database (PhysOrg):  European evolutionists have compiled a dataset of all known insects in an attempt to arrange them on a phylogenetic tree.  One conclusion: “insects developed wings long before any other animal could do so, and at nearly the same time that land plants first grew substantially upwards to form forests.”  A video clip in the article, though impressively produced by Heidelberg U, shows only fully-functional winged insects arranged on a branch of Darwin’s tree of life.  The video admits that deciphering the evolutionary relationships of these animals would require more than all the computing power on earth.  “Whatever people do, insects did it first,” the article notes.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Largest venomous snake (Live Science):  The “largest venomous snake ever known to man” has been uncovered in Greece.  It’s estimated to have been 10-13 feet long and weighed 57 pounds.  “What makes Laophis even stranger was that it achieved this bulk not in the tropics, where most large reptiles live today, but in seasonal grasslands where winters were cool.”

Amphibian regeneration (Live Science): A fossil amphibian so well preserved that external gills and scales can be seen shows evidence that “the ability of some vertebrates to regenerate or regrow amputated limbs first evolved at least 300 million years ago.”

Jurassic croc (Science Daily):  From research at the University of Edinburgh: “Crocodiles which roamed the world’s seas millions of years ago developed in similar ways to their modern-day relatives, a study has shown.”  PhysOrg reports a fossil croc that was nearly 30 feet long.

Miscellaneous

Veticolians (Science Daily): Another human ancestor is alleged, this one 500 million years old in the evolutionary scheme.  Veticolians, “among our strangest distant cousins,” had a rod through their tails; was it an emerging backbone?  Among the diverse Cambrian animals that exploded onto the scene in the fossil record, “They were simple yet successful creatures, large in number and in distribution across the globe, and one of the first representatives of our cousins, which include sea squirts and salps.

Evolutionists desperately try to fit complex, successful animals into their primitive-to-complex story plot.  When they don’t fit, they invent terms like “mosaicism” and “living fossil” or “convergent evolution.”  Those are theory-rescue devices, not explanations.  What needs to be explained is the complex, information-rich, specified genes, proteins, cells, tissues, organs, and systems that make each of these animals successful in their habitat.

Creationists might want to take note of the story about the extinction of New Zealand’s moas.  It shows that humans could have hunted down animals, including the last dinosaurs, in short order.  This would not only explain dinosaur extinction better than other theories, but also explains the dragon legends, soft tissue preservation and ancient artwork depicting dinosaurs.  Speaking of dinosaurs, there’s been a lot of news about dinosaur fossils, too.  Those will be discussed in a separate post.

 

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