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Giant Fossil Penguins Lived in Warm Waters

“Giant prehistoric penguins?  In Peru?” puzzled a reporter on Science Daily.  “It sounds more like something out of Hollywood than science,” but a fossil penguin you could look eye to eye with has been found that far north.  “We tend to think of penguins as being cold-adapted species,” said one of the discoverers,” but not […]

Crisis at Both Ends of Darwin’s Tree

Two assumptions about evolution – one about the earliest multicellular organisms and one about the rise of mammals – have run into trouble.  Eukarya sans Mechanista:  “In the absence of direct evidence, science should proceed cautiously with conjecture,” wisely advised Anthony Poole and David Penny in Nature.1  They scorned the researchers who glibly invent fables […]

Huge Forest Fossilized Suddenly

Nature1 had some interesting comments about the fossil forest found in a coal mine a few months ago (see 04/23/2007).  Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Natural History said that a vast area (over 3.8 square miles) must have been inundated quickly for this fossil graveyard to be preserved. Rapid burial can result from […]

Invent Animals: Just Add Phosphorus

“Phosphate does a body good,” announced Leslie Mullen in an article for Astrobiology Magazine, a NASA website.  So good, in fact, it builds whole new body plans.  Her story suggests that the Cambrian explosion was due to a rise in phosphate in the oceans.     In the Cambrian explosion, virtually all the animal phyla […]

Dino Feathers or Horsefeathers?

The much-touted feathers on certain dinosaurs may be nothing more than collagen fibers.  An article on ABC France says “Dinosaur ‘feathers’ are no such thing.”  Instead, it’s just decayed dermal collagen, like that found on sharks and reptiles.  A South African team came to this conclusion after analyzing the alleged feathers on Sinosauropteryx.     […]

When Is a Primate a Human Ancestor?

Behold Aegyptopithecus zeuxis, an extinct fossil monkey.  It had a brain smaller than a lemon, smaller than that of modern lemurs.  Why, then, are the news media touting this as a human ancestor?     The new specimen of Aegyptopithecus is more intact and complete than previous specimens.  Two surprises were noted; the amount of […]

Fossil Forest Found in Coal

A Carboniferous forest extending some 4 square miles has been found in the ceiling of a coal mine, reported Science Daily, Live Science and News@Nature.  About 50 species have been identified, including ferns and horsetails over 10 times taller than those alive today.  News@Nature remarked that the forest contained some mangrove-like plants.  The article quoted […]

Jurassic Park Gets Overhaul

How much do we understand the dinosaurs?  ABC News reported on some big-time updates and revisions being made to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History dinosaur exhibits.  The title of the article is, “Getting Their Dinosaur Facts Right, at Least for Now.” The problem is that even though the newest of the dinosaurs are 65 […]

Proteins Found Preserved in T. rex Bone

Preserved fragments of collagen have been found in a dinosaur bone alleged to be 68 million years old.  Read all about it in Science Daily.  Analysis of soft tissue found by Mary Schweitzer and team turned up the recognizable protein fragments.  Protein was also detected in soft tissue from a mastodon said to be half […]

Earliest Comb Jelly Fossil Looks Modern

One would think that a paper listed in the category “Evolution” would include supporting evidence that evolution had occurred, but a new Evolution paper in PNAS provides more arguments against it than for it.1  An international team studying early Cambrian fossil beds in China found a comb jelly embryo essentially identical to those alive today.  […]

Did Indians See Jurassic Beasts?

Did Indians have familiarity with Jurassic monsters, or were they good paleontologists, skilled at reconstructions?  In the “Random Samples” page of news tidbits in the journal Science March 30,1 the story is told and the interpretation given: Some fossils are rare, but this one recently unearthed in eastern Oregon may be positively mythic.  In life, […]

Leakey Manipulated His Apelike “Skull 1470” to Look Human

The skull of an alleged human ancestor Richard Leakey made famous in 1972 was poorly reconstructed, claims a paleoanthropologist who specializes in craniofacial biology.  According to Dr. Timothy Bromage of New York University, Leakey employed nonstandard principles while assembling the bones of his “Skull 1470”, giving the face a flatter, more human-like profile.  Many at […]

New Dinos Found; What Do They Mean?

There is often a wide gap between the bones that are found and the stories that are told about them.  As new dinosaur bones come to light, some reporters cannot resist imagining all kinds of things about their lifestyles.  Here are two recent examples.  As a bonus, we’ll add a non-dinosaur reptile story or two. […]

Missing Link, or Just Jawboning About Ear Evolution?

Tetrapod vertebrates (four-footed animals with backbones) comprise a dizzying array of species, both living and extinct.  When is it justifiable to arrange different forms into an ancestral evolutionary sequence, especially when some members are extinct and others are still alive today?  On what basis can scientists claim that a discovery demonstrates evolution?  Some Chinese scientists […]

Dino Horns: Is Smaller More Evolved?

One can never tell which way the evolutionary path will take to determine fitness.  Could be bigger, could be smaller.  Could be faster, could be slower.  Could be better camouflaged, could be flashy.  Michael Ryan (Cleveland Museum) decided that shorter horns on his dinosaur constituted better fitness.  CNN says his discovery, a 20-foot dinosaur in […]
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