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Step Aside Lucy; It’s Ardi Time

A new fossil human ancestor has taken center stage.  Those who love Lucy, the australopithecine made famous by Donald Johanson (and numerous TV specials), are in for a surprise.  Lucy is a has been.  Her replacement is not Desi Arnaz, but is designated Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus – the new leading lady in the […]

Anchiornis: Foot Feathers Confuse Bird Evolution Story

The paper on Anchiornis huxleyii was published in Nature,1 along with a News article about it in the same issue by Lawrence Witmer.2  In addition, popular reports were printed by the BBC News, Live Science and Science Daily.     The popular reports are focusing on Xing Xu’s claim that this fossil removes the last […]

Ho-Hum, Another Feathered Dinosaur

Another Chinese fossil its discoverers are calling a “feathered dinosaur” has been announced by Nature News.  It is ostensibly a more complete specimen of Anchiornis huxleyii that was announced last January (see 01/21/2009).  The full paper on this specimen is to be published in Nature next week.     The fossil is said to have […]

Human Evolution Celebration Exposed

The evolutionary story of human origins is often told like a cultural myth that is intuitively obvious.  Humans emerged in Africa after their ancestors came down from the trees and walked upright.  They began to hunt with stone tools and used fire.  They migrated north out of Africa and populated Europe, overtaking the Neanderthals who […]

Stone Tools May Be Crocodile Stomach Stones

“Were crocodiles responsible for the stones we call tools?” is the title of a surprising letter to the editor in Nature last week.1  Patrick Dempsey (the archaeologist, not the actor) raised a possibility that paleoanthropologists and the journals have been making a big mistake for a long time.  He asked, “Could Nature have been unknowingly […]

Velociraptors as Tree Climbers?

Remember those sickle-shaped claws on the feet of Velociraptor that terrified visitors in the Jurassic Park movies?  New Scientist reported a radically different theory about them.  They weren’t for eviscerating their prey; they were for climbing trees.  Phil Manning (U of Manchester) previously showed they were insufficient for tearing dinosaur skin.  Now he is suggesting […]

Human Evolution Story Confounded – Again

Human fossils in Georgia (Asia) have confounded the timeline of human evolution again.  The UK newspaper Independent reported that the 3 skulls of Homo erectus are rewriting the history of man.  If these are as old as claimed (1.8 million years), it would toss overboard the long held belief that modern humans first emerged in […]

Permian Extinction Recovery Story Stretches Credibility

It goes without saying that Darwin’s theory fits hand in glove with the geological dating scheme, but how reliable is the latter?  The textbook age names – Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Eocene and all the rest – have taken on their own life as assumed truths.  Every once in awhile, though, papers are published that require […]

Mutation: Not a Bug, a Feature

Evolutionary biologists are sometimes risque with the way they discuss mutations.  They treat them almost like magic wands, able to produce wondrous new organs and functions by accident. Health to them, death to you:  One article on Science Daily discussed a mutation that causes congenital heart disease in humans, but may have been a stepping […]

How the Girl Evolved Fear of Spiders

Today’s Evolutionary Just-So Story is brought to you by New Scientist: “Girls Are Primed to Fear Spiders.”  Once upon a time, while cavemen were out hunting and gathering, the women back home had to learn to avoid dangerous animals.  David Rakison of Carnegie Mellon University put this all into evolutionary terms for the rest of […]

Feather Technology Resurrected in Printer After 40 Million Years

A fossil bird feather from Germany still shows that melanosomes – the cell organelles that produce iridescent colors in feathers – are still visible after an alleged 40 million years.  The structures were long thought to be remnants of bacteria that fed on the organic matter, but now are seen to consist of original feather […]

Fire Technology Began Much Earlier Than Believed

A team publishing in Science1 claims they found evidence that humans were using fire treatment of stone tools much, much, much earlier than prior dates for cognitive abilities.  But they can’t seem to settle on just how early.  The dates vary by more than 100%.  One date, 72,000 years before the present, is about 50,000 […]

Evolution of the Knuckle Head

An evolutionary anthropologist looked at the knuckles of chimpanzees.  Then she looked at the knuckles of gorillas.  Then she looked at her own knuckles.  Conclusion: humans evolved from tree climbers, not knuckle walkers.  Her theory can be read in Live Science, based on a paper in PNAS.1     Tracy Kivell and Daniel Schmitt from […]

Pterosaur Fuzz May Have Boosted Flying Finesse

Fibers on a well-preserved pterosaur from Mongolia are unlike anything seen before.  Scientists wonder if it gave the animals better control in the air.  National Geographic News said the hairlike fibers cover the whole body and part of the wings of Jeholopterus ninchengensis.  Normally, such fine details are not preserved in fossils.  “It must have […]

Dino Protein Confirmed

An independent study of bone marrow contents from a T. rex that was reported in 2007 to contain fragments of protein has confirmed the claim, reported Science Daily.  Seven peptides from collagen, and apparently traces from hemoglobin, were detected.  The findings are scheduled to be published in the Sept. 4 issue of Journal of Proteome […]
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