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Fossil Hummingbird, Arthropod Look Modern

Science announced that a rare hummingbird fossil has been found in Germany and, though assumed to be 30 million years old, is indistinguishable from living New-World hummingbirds.  This upsets the standard theory that hummingbirds evolved in the New World only.  Writing in the May 7 issue,1 discoverer Gerald Mayr said, I report on tiny skeletons […]

Feathered Dinosaur Exhibit Raises Doubts

Can you trust those fossils on display in your local museum, the ones showing “Feathered Dinosaurs and the Origin of Flight”?  No less than the respected journal Nature1 is concerned they may have been gathered and sold illegally, and are no more trustworthy than the 1999 Archaeoraptor hoax that embarrassed National Geographic magazine.     […]

Slowing Down the Cambrian Explosion

“Although the cause of the Cambrian radiation is unknown,” states a story in Science Now, maybe it wasn’t as rapid as previously thought.  Bruce Lieberman (U. of Kansas) is toying with the idea that trilobites, those icons of the Cambrian era, radiated into various ecological niches 65 million years earlier than the ~520 million year […]

How Could Polar Dinosaurs Survive Freezing, Darkness?

National Geographic News has a report about a new exhibit of dinosaur fossils that have been found in the northern and southern polar regions.  These unusual creatures had to survive not only the cold, but also, due to the effects of orbital mechanics, six months of darkness each year.  Intrepid explorers in south Australia, northern […]

Rethinking the Geological Layers

One of the most formative ideas in Darwin’s intellectual journey was the concept of gradualism, the principle of “small agencies and their cumulative effects.”  This idea became a dominant motif in his philosophy of life.  Describing how the assumption of gradualism permeated his last book (on earthworms) shortly before his death, Janet Browne, in her […]

Oldest Fossil Insect Alleged

In a pattern that sounds familiar, an insect fossil has been found that (1) is the oldest ever discovered, and (2) shows that “winged flight may have emerged earlier than previously thought.”  Estimates put this fossil at about 400 million years old, among the first creatures to colonize the land.  Though wing impressions were not […]

Hundreds of Whales Buried Suddenly in Diatoms

A remarkable fossil find has been found in Peru: 346 whales buried in diatomaceous earth.  The preservation of the whales is so pristine and complete, the authors of the paper in the Feb. 2004 issue of Geology1 conclude that the whales had to be buried rapidly, in days or weeks.  If so, it represents a […]

Extinction Puzzle Explained as Selection Effect

It’s not evolution, it’s statistics.  That’s the conclusion of Robert Scotland and Michael Sanderson in the Jan. 30 issue of Science.  What’s the puzzle? When biodiversity is examined in the context of species richness, a consistent feature emerges: Most taxonomic groups are species-poor, relatively few are species-rich, and the frequency distribution has the shape of […]

La Brea Tar Pits Trap Scientists

Sid Perkins of Science News dropped in at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, and got stuck, not in tar, but in the sticky evolutionary interpretations of these world-famous fossil deposits.  This fossil bed, right in one of the ritziest parts of Los Angeles (adjacent to the County Art Museum), Perkins whimsically calls “L.A.’s […]

Fossil Worm: Does It Help Solve Cambrian Explosion Puzzle?

A soft embryo of a Cambrian worm, exquisitely preserved, makes Graham Budd (U. of Uppsala, Sweden) ask some hard questions about it and other recently-discovered embryo fossils in the Jan. 15 issue of Nature:1 These fossils raise several questions, to say the least.  First, how could they possibly be preserved?  Second, why are they concentrated […]

Chinese Puzzle: New Primate Fossil Raises Eyebrows

A new fossil primate skull from China, alleged to be 55 million years old, provides “much-needed substantial evidence of early primates in Asia,” says Robert Martin (Field Museum, Chicago), reporting in the Jan. 1 issue of Nature.1  But “interpretation of the creature’s eye size and activity pattern,” he says, “will spark debate.”  (This is code […]

Despite New Fossil, Origin of Marsupials Still Puzzles Evolutionists

Although the earliest known marsupial has just been found in China1, Richard L. Cifelli and Brian M. Davis, writing in the Dec. 12 issue of Science2 consider the phylogenetic trees of marsupial and placental mammals conflicting and puzzling.  Problems include (emphasis added): Switcheroo:  Fossil marsupials are predominately found in North America, but living ones are […]

New Record-Setting Living Fossil Flabbergasts Scientists

A remarkably-detailed fossil ostracode, a type of crustacean, has been announced in the Dec. 5 issue of Science1 that is blowing the socks off its discoverers.  Erik Stokstad in a review of the discovery in the same issue2 explains its significance in the evolutionary picture of prehistory: Over the past half-billion years, evolution has dished […]

Got That?  The Complex Story of African Mammal Evolution

The article by Jean-Jacques Jaeger in the Dec. 4 issue of Nature1 is pretty upbeat about the evolutionary history of African mammals, but takes a bit of untangling to follow.     He begins confidently, “For some 40 million years, the Afro-Arabian landmass existed in splendid isolation.  A newly described fossil fauna from the end […]

Fossil Fingers Fuddle Phylogeny

Another fossil complicates the evolutionists’ picture of tetrapod origins (see Aug 9 headline).  Chinese paleontologists have reported1 a new marine reptile from Triassic strata (242 million years old, more or less).  Unexpectedly, it has extra digits (a condition called polydactyly) just like the putative ancestors of tetrapods from the earlier Devonian strata (370-354 million years […]
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