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Two Ways to Look at a Fin

Two science articles this month showed very different ways to look at a fish fin.  One looked for evolution; the other looked for design.  One tried to trace an evolutionary story with no practical application; the other tried to find ways to improve our lives.     The evolutionary story involved a fossil coelacanth.  Science […]

Largest Dinosaur Mass Grave in Switzerland Found

As many as 100 plateosaurs may be buried in a mass grave in Switzerland, reported the Reuters news service.  “The finds show that an area known for Plateosaurus finds for decades may be much larger than originally thought” – as much as a mile in width in the town of Frick, near the German border.  […]

Trilobite Tree Is Upside Down

Darwin predicted that life would become more diverse over time, like the branches on a tree.  The pattern of trilobites in the fossil record is just the opposite: more diversity appears in the lower layers, and less diversity in the upper layers.  Surprisingly, evolutionary paleontologists are turning this into evidence for Darwin’s theory.     […]

Dinosaur Sex and Other Tales

How much do we really know about dinosaurs?  How much can be inferred from their bones?  Two recent stories illustrate conflicting themes: much of what we thought we knew was wrong, but that doesn’t stop evolutionary paleontologists from speaking with confidence. Walking with dino ancestors:  Paleontologists used to think that the alleged precursors of dinosaurs […]

Roadrunner and Largest Flying Bird Described from Fossils

A bird with a 23-foot wingspan was described in the BBC News.  At an estimated 155 pounds, this bird probably had to jump from a height to get airborne and likely rode on thermals.  The article says the bird rivalled in size some light airplanes.  A diagram shows the Argentinean giant with wings upwardly stretched […]

Baby Frozen Mammoth Found Intact

The BBC News has a picture of a baby frozen mammoth that was found intact in northwest Siberia.  The article says it is one of the best-preserved frozen mammoths ever found, complete with eyes, fur, and trunk.  One investigator said, “In terms of its state of preservation, this is the world’s most valuable discovery” of […]

Greenland Was Forest Green

Greenland once had boreal forests like those in Sweden, reported Science Daily.  Researchers analyzed the mud under 2 km of ice and found DNA from yew, alder, pine, grain, butterflies, moths, flies and beetles.  According to the article, “the research is painting a picture which is overturning all previous assumptions about biological life and the […]

Chinese Eat Dragon Bone for Health

Chinese villagers dig up dinosaur bones for health food.  Yahoo News reported, “Villagers in central China dug up a ton of dinosaur bones and boiled them in soup or ground them into powder for traditional medicine, believing they were from flying dragons and had healing powers.”  The article says the bones are calcium rich and […]

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 […]
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