Notable Vertebrate Fossils
Vertebrate fossils are only a tiny fraction of the record, but they are usually the most interesting to us.
Underwater Fossil Graveyard Reveals Toll of Human-Caused Extinction (Live Science): “If humans had never set foot in the Bahamas, the islands today might be teeming with Cuban crocodiles, Albury’s tortoises and rock iguanas,” this article says. Remains of these creatures have been found in a flooded sinkhole, providing evidence they survived the ice age. They should have been there except for the arrival of humans later, the article argues. PhysOrg‘s coverage suggests this is still a theory being tested.
Meet Jane, the Most Complete Adolescent T. Rex Ever Found (Live Science): The authors of a study of “Jane” the teen-age T. rex have called into question the status of Nanotyrannus. Some are now arguing that Nanotyrannus is just a juvenile T. rex. Old dino digger Robert Bakker is not backing down on his claim it’s a separate species; he discovered it and named it, after all. Meanwhile, PhysOrg offers a new theory that dinosaur nasal passages kept the animals cool, and a Live Science video shares the exciting suggestion that the tail of Apatosaurus, cracking like the whip of Indiana Jones, may have broken the speed of sound.
Treasure trove of late Triassic fossils discovered in Utah (PhysOrg): This “fantastic site” has creatures like pterosaurs, crocodile-like reptiles and dinosaurs. Brigham Young University is excavating the site, dubbed “Saints and Sinners” because one is a Mormon and two others are not. Some 11,500 bones have been found so far, some of them remarkably well preserved:
“It is absurdly rare to find delicate, small skeletons from anywhere in time, anywhere in the world,” said Adam Pritchard, a Yale paleontologist not part of the discovery team. “To have them from the Triassic period, which is the very beginning of the age of reptiles, is really unprecedented, especially in western north America.”
76-million-year-old extinct species of pig-snouted turtle unearthed in Utah (Science Daily): The Miss Piggy of fossil turtles turned up in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Two feet long from head to tail, this “weird turtle” that walked with dinosaurs. “The new specimen includes not only the skull and the shell, but also a nearly complete forelimb, partial hindlimbs, and vertebrae from the neck and tail,” the article says. While this turtle is unlike any other ever found, “those fossil beds also hold the remains of many crocodilians, turtles, lizards and amphibians that don’t look much different from their modern relatives” in spite of being over 75 million Darwin years old.
Dilophosaurus – less of a frilly, venom-spitting lizard than we thought (PhysOrg): Time to revise Jurassic Park I. The scary, frilly poison-spitter Dilophosaurus wasn’t what the filmmakers portrayed, paleontologist Robert Gay explains in a lengthy article from a PLoS blog. Three individuals are known from the Kayenta formation in Utah. Conclusions drawn from earlier studies are now in doubt. “So where does this leave the state of early theropod evolution? Pretty unsettled.”
Everything’s Bigger in Texas: Ancient Supersize Shark Fossils Unearthed (Live Science): An enormous “supershark” has been found in Texas, some 25% longer than a great white. “Supershark lived before the age of the dinosaurs, which emerged about 230 million years ago. Until now, the oldest giant shark was found in rocks dating to 130 million years ago,” meaning that evolutionists have to dial back the origin of giant sharks to “much further in the fossil record than previously thought,” the article admits.
Evolution: An avian explosion (Nature): This is another paper claiming that the fossil record of bird evolution can be reconciled with molecular evidence. The solution, however, requires near stasis for millions of years till after the extinction of the dinosaurs, then an explosion of diversification afterward. “Indeed, the early diversification of birds may have been so rapid that it resembles a network, or bush, rather than a beautifully bifurcating tree of life.” The latest solution requires “hopeful caution” while calling for more fossils. “In the absence of a perfect fossil record, the best we can do is experiment with different calibration dates and levels of uncertainty around those dates.” See also Current Biology‘s lengthy entry, “The Origin and Diversification of Birds,” which puts a more confident macroevolutionary face on the confusing picture. Confident, that is, if one is willing to accept bursts of evolution at arbitrary junctures, and poof-spoof excursions like, “although early birds and even some non-bird dinosaurs had volant capabilities, powered flight as we know it in modern birds most certainly developed after the origin of birds themselves.” (See Flight: The Genius of Birds for challenges to the origin of powered flight by Darwinian processes.)
The horse series 3.0 (Current Biology): This primer by Ludovic Orlando describes Equids, both fossil and living horses, donkeys, and zebras. He takes the old museum line that “The evolutionary transition from multiple-toed to one-toed animals can be followed in great detail in the fossil record and represents one of the most popular textbook examples of macroevolution.” He shows the old four-toed to one-toed illustration. His tale, though, requires multiple migrations:
The Old World was colonized several times by distinct equid groups, including Hipparions 12 million years ago, which, except for their three toes (Figure 2), resembled modern horses. It was not until two million years ago that the most recent common ancestor of present-day asses and zebras crossed Beringia. Within the following 500,000 years, their ancestors rapidly expanded across Eurasia and entered Africa at least twice independently. The descendants of the first migration later radiated into a diversity of zebras while those of the second migration gave rise to modern donkeys and African wild asses (Equus africanus; Figure 1).
Horses entered the Old World in a separate migration, probably no earlier than 700,000 years ago, and expanded into Eurasia throughout a territory already populated by ancestors of Asiatic Wild asses. Their demographic history was punctuated by major cycles of expansions and collapses, probably related to the major glacial and interglacial cycles of the Pleistocene. Reduction in grassland cover during the Last Glacial Maximum led to a massive horse population crash in Eurasia, and to a total extinction in the Americas about 10,000 years ago. Therefore, all present-day American horses, including the free-roaming Mustangs, living symbols of the American West pioneering spirit, descend from European horses brought in after the Spanish conquest.
Yet he talks very little about actual fossils. This scenario seems highly contrived to fit the dating scheme that evolutionists need to maintain against the fossil evidence. In addition to multiple migrations, the story requires seemingly reckless tales of interbreeding and hybridization. And surely there must be a lot more to macroevolution than losing toes or changing body size; what about all the organs and internal systems? Each one is clearly an Equid. Even young-Earth creationists accept that today’s horses look different from the original created kind.
Sound familiar? Everything appears earlier than thought, exceptionally preserved, often just like modern representatives, buried instantly in flood conditions. Evolution is a highly-contrived “scenario” twisted and contorted to fit preconceived notions. See the process in “How not to work a puzzle” in the 5/01/2008 commentary.