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Dino Fossils Generate Overblown Claims

04/10/2006), inventing feathers out of thin air.  This time, it was justified on the basis of a new paper in Nature that claims to remove an obstacle in the dinosaur-bird evolution story.1  Doubters had pointed to differences in the three forward-pointing toes.  With dinosaurs, it was toes 1, 2 and 3 that were retained; while […]

Birds Didn’t Evolve from Dinosaurs

June 9, 2009 — “The findings add to a growing body of evidence in the past two decades that challenge some of the most widely-held beliefs about animal evolution.”  That statement is not being made by creationists, but by science reporters describing work at Oregon State University that cast new doubt on the idea that […]

Hominids, Homonyms, and Homo sapiens

How’s the story of human evolution hanging together these days?  There’s no better place to look than the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  In the yearly issue released this month, Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey Schwartz gave a pretty thorough overview of the “Evolution of the Genus Homo.”1  Their account is fraught with controversy, […]

Ho-Hum, Another Human Missing Link

Shoppers typically are wary of over-hyped ads, knowing that any claim sounding too good to be true probably is.  What would they think about media reports claiming a new fossil monkey is the “8th wonder of the world”?     The scientific paper in PLoS ONE1 had hardly been published before the press went ape, […]

Early Man IQ: Et Tu, Brute?

Anthropologists are receiving a jolt about the intelligence of early man.  Long before the cave paintings showed our forebears exercising art appreciation, new findings suggest they were gifted individuals, not brutes.     The first report was about manufactured beads dated older than 82,000 years.  Science Daily said, “The shells are currently at the centre […]

Dinosaur Blood Protein, Cells Recovered

It’s official: soft tissue, including blood vessel proteins and structures resembling cells, have been recovered from dinosaur bone.  Mary Schweitzer’s amazing claim in 2005 (03/24/2005) was subsequently disputed as possible contamination from biofilms (07/30/2008).  Now, Schweitzer and her team took exceptional precautions to avoid contamination by excavating hadrosaur bone from sandstone said to be 80 […]

The Long Precambrian Fuse Gets Longer

Why did complex multicellular life explode on the scene some 550 million years ago?  That’s mystery enough, but finding complex single-celled life a billion years earlier makes it worse.  A new paper evaluated claims of Cambrian-like fossils from India dated 1.6 billion years old in the evolutionary timeline.  It did not explain the Cambrian explosion, […]

Missing Links Found: Walking Seal, Teen Tyrannosaur

Science news media are abuzz with reports that two missing links have been found.  One is a fossil seal (pinniped) with four legs, the other a smaller presumed ancestor of the famous Tyrannosaurus rex. Seal:  National Geographic News calls it a seal with arms, and features artwork of an otter-like animal doing a kind of […]

How Valid Is Computerized Dinosaur Reconstruction?

Can you reconstruct a dinosaur on a computer?  Of course you can.  The question is how accurate it reflects something no one has ever seen.  Live Science told about Peter Falkingham at the University of Manchester who is using “genetic algorithms” and simulating evolution to figure out how dinosaurs walked.     A dinosaur’s gait […]

Plant Evolution: Where’s the Root?

To Darwin, the origin of flowering plants was an “abominable mystery.”  Recently, some entries on Science magazine’s blog Origins have claimed the mystery has been solved, at least partially, and a full solution is near at hand.  Here is a great test case for evolution.  Angiosperms comprise a huge, diverse population of organisms.  There should […]

Fossil Fish Pushes Evolutionary Time

Quick!  When was the Age of Fishes?  If you said “Devonian,” you were correct according to the textbooks and museums, but where’s your evidence?  Look at this diorama in the Smithsonian depicting the seas of the Silurian, the period preceding the Devonian: crinoids, trilobites, corals and nautiloids, but no fish.  It may be time to […]

Amazing Fossils: Do They Help Darwin?

Some remarkable fossils have been found recently.  According to the reports, scientists are not sure what to make of them, even though evolutionary language is liberally applied to the interpretation. Octopus:  The earliest fossil octopus is 100% octopus.  A rare well-preserved octopus fossil, as unlikely as finding a fossilized sneeze according to Live Science, shows […]

Permian Extinction: The Origin of Specious Geological Events

The Permian extinction – one of the most dramatic events in the history of life on Earth, in which some 90% of species went extinct – lay people assume scientists can back up this story with evidence from geology and fossils, but where is it?  Whatever happened at the prime site in South Africa, from […]

Tracking Human Ancestors

“Earliest human footprints found,” the BBC News announced, and National Geographic echoed, “Oldest Human Footprints With Modern Anatomy Found.”  Presumably these are to be distinguished as human rather than pre-human.  What was discovered?     A photo of a modern-looking footprint accompanies the two articles.  The print was found in volcanic ash in Kenya dated […]

A Tale of Two Sites: Moby Dog and The Claw

Discoveries portrayed as major evolutionary missing links were announced this week.  One is a putative transitional form from land animal to whale, and one is a Cambrian trilobite-like creature said to be evolving the first claw. Moby dog:  The current evolutionary scenario for the origin of whales is that they evolved from dog-like hoofed animals […]
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