February 6, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Mammals vs. Evolution

Whether living or fossilized, mammals do not tell an evolutionary story.

The rodent that ate Uruguay: Check out this buffalo-sized rodent on PhysOrg.  “The largest rodent ever to have lived may have used its front teeth just like an elephant uses its tusks, a new study led by scientists at the University of York and The Hull York Medical School (HYMS) has found.” A Darwin skeptic might well ask why so many extinct animals were larger and stronger than the ones we have today. This was no cuddly guinea pig. The BBC News has a diagram showing its size compared to a woman and today’s largest living rodent. If it used those giant chompers like elephants use their tusks, it should be noted that elephants are not carnivores.  “We concluded that Josephoartigasia must have used its incisors for activities other than biting, such as digging in the ground for food, or defending itself from predators,” one of the paleontologists said.

Nude rat cures cancer: Naked mole rats rarely get cancer, and now we may know why. They have an extra protein, Science Daily reports, that humans and mice lack. By studying these little, wrinkly-skin rodents, we may learn ways to combat not only cancer but heart disease. The existence of this protein suggests that mammals like us once had it but lost it in a genetic bottleneck sometime in human history.

Fast dog evolution:  Evolutionists have been saying that early humans domesticated wolves about 30,000 years ago. The new date, according to PhysOrg (“Science dates old dogs with new tricks”) is half that, 15,000 years ago.  In science, that’s known as 50% error. Biblical creationists might tease, “You’re getting warmer.” The article points out that dog breeds were only formally categorized about 200 years ago, and since then, “we have seen an explosion in dog diversity.”  Yet they are still all members of one species, Canis lupus familiaris. That’s what artificial selection for existing genetic information can do. Wolves, it could be argued, are more fit for survival in the wild.

Rafting monkeys:  Africa has monkeys. South America has monkeys—different species unique to that continent. Did they evolve separately, or did one group of ancestral monkeys move from one continent to another? The new story is that African monkeys migrated west—and they did it 10 million years earlier than thought. How did they do it? “The discovery also pushes back the monkeys’ arrival date—perhaps by vegetation raft across the Atlantic Ocean—by 10 million years,” Science Magazine says. This part of the “evolutionary saga,” as Science Daily calls it, has been “cloaked in mystery” till now. Divination methods on teeth “provide the first evidence that monkeys actually managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Africa.” One lingering mystery will be how the monkeys found the rafts and decided to set sail for the New World.

Back to the zebra stripe puzzle: They thought they had the just-so story figured out, “How the zebra got its stripes” (2/09/12, 12/22/13), but no. The plots about confusing predators, wearing uniforms, or avoiding flies didn’t satisfy everybody. A new study says it’s temperature that spurred these equines to get stripy (see Science Daily). If that were the case, though, why didn’t the antelope, mice, and trees in the same temperature zones follow suit?

Chinese puzzle trees: Four conflicting phylogenetic trees of mammals are shown at the beginning an article on PhysOrg: “Mesozoic mammals: What do we know from China?” Not much, apparently. Despite an exciting trove of new fossils discovered there, the evolutionary ancestry of mammals remains problematic.  Once again, divining from teeth, scientists are trying different puzzle-solving ideas:

How the allotherian tooth pattern evolved has remained an enigma in the study of mammalian evolution. It is puzzling because wherever allotherians are placed in the phylogeny, either within or outside Mammalia, it is equally difficult to derive the allotherian tooth pattern from any known mammals or their close kin. Given the preferred phylogeny (Fig. 1a), which suggests that allotherians were derived from a Haramiyavia-like ancestor, and the occlusal pattern revealed by the euharamiyidans, it is proposed that the primitive allotherian tooth pattern, as represented by Haramiyavia, could have evolved from a ‘triconodont’-like tooth pattern and then gave rise to those of euharamiyidans and multituberculates, respectively.

Why is a dolphin not a cat?  This question was posed in all seriousness by the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), which believes all mammals evolved from a common ancestor. Even though neo-Darwinism is an unguided, purposeless, aimless natural process, these evolutionists found a purpose in it somewhere:

“What we’ve shown is that evolution repurposes things that exist in all species, to make each species unique,” explains Paul Flicek, head of Vertebrate Genomics at EMBL-EBI. “By looking at gene promoters and enhancers in many different mammals, we demonstrated that species-specific enhancers come from ancient DNAthat evolution captures DNA that’s been around for a long time, and uses it for gene regulation in specific tissues.”

Whether you call it a “he,” a “she,” or an “it,” anything that can capture something, and re-purpose it for another use is not what Darwin had in mind. This explanation appears to front-load the first mammal with an incredibly rich toolkit that “evolution” took and used for various things “to make each species unique.” It’s not clear why an unguided process would want to, or need to, make everything unique. Can this general toolkit really explain the origin of dolphin sonar, cat drop physics, elephant tusks, bat flight, giraffe necks, tiger stripes and camel humps? That’s a lot of purpose to pack into genes and gene promoters.

If science were a newspaper, evolution would be the funny pages.


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