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Passings: Howell Dies, of Time-Life Book Fame

Nature contained an obituary for F. Clark Howell, paleoanthropologist (1925-2007).  He knew and worked with most of the 20th century fossil-man hunters from Raymond Dart to the Leakeys.  Students will probably remember the Time-Life series he authored, Early Man, with its fold-out panorama by illustrator Jay Matternes of the march from furry monkey to naked […]

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 […]

Cave Chimps Suggest Cave Men

Some chimpanzees have been found in Senegal using caves for shelter from the heat.  Jill Pruetz (Iowa State) took note of this and is publishing a paper about it in Primates.  National Geographic speculated that this sheds light on human origins: The adaptations of savanna chimpanzees are particularly interesting to researchers because early humans are […]

Lucy the Gorilla?

Three scientists from Tel Aviv found a “gorilla-like” jaw structure on a recently discovered specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, of which “Lucy” is the best-known example.  This is a problem, because Lucy was supposed to be transitional between chimpanzees and humans, not gorillas.     Publishing in PNAS,1 they said, “The presence of the morphology in […]

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.  […]

Chinese Claim Early Man Fame

The “out of Africa” hypothesis must be wrong, some Chinese anthropologists claim, because they have a modern skeleton 40,000 years old.  The story is reported by the BBC News, EurekAlert, National Geographic News and Science Daily.     The BBC News report starts, “The find could shed light on how our ancestors colonised the East, […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  The Evolution of Shopper’s Arm

This week’s prize goes to the Society for Experimental Biology, which, according to EurekAlert, said this in a press release: The next time you are struggling to carry your bags home from the supermarket just remember that this could, in fact, be the reason you are able to walk upright on two legs at all!  […]

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. […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  Monkeys Bang Rocks, Invent Culture

The venerable University of Cambridge earns this week’s prize for the following statements in a press release today: New evidence of “human” culture among primates 23 March 2007 Research suggests that stone-banging by South American monkeys could be a socially-learned skill Fresh evidence that suggests monkeys can learn skills from each other, in the same […]

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 […]

Immature Kid?  Blame Evolution

Why do older children linger at home longer than they should?  Evolution, says Ker Than for Live Science.  This insight of his is based on growth patterns of teeth from an alleged 160,000-year-old juvenile skeleton in Africa.  Tanya Smith [Max Planck Institute] said of the bones, “These early fossils show a mix of primitive and […]
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