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Indonesian Hobbit No Numbskull

Whoever Homo florensiensis was (see 10/27/2004 entry), it was no dumb half-ape.  This miniature human packed a lot of brains into a small skull, says Michael Balter in Science1 (see also EurekAlert, National Geographic and BBC News).  A cast of the brain made from the skull shows complexity: convolutions in the frontal lobe suggest an […]

Dating Disaster: Is Neanderthal the New Piltdown?

We all know it by heart: Neanderthal Man was a big-boned, hairy cave-dweller that got pushed out of northern Europe 40,000 years ago by the smarter modern humans.  Could this all be wrong?  Did some bones actually belong to real people living in recorded history?     The man who dated some of these bones, […]

South American Dinosaur Find Modifies Theories

A deinonychus-like dinosaur has been found in Argentina.  Representatives of this group, including velociraptor, had previously only been known in the northern hemisphere and Asia.  Since South America was supposedly on another land mass at the time, “The new discovery demonstrates that Cretaceous theropod faunas from the southern continents shared greater similarity with those of […]

Is Darwinism a Free Lunch Scam?

Neurobiologist William H. Calvin commented at the AAAS meeting this week about the claim that modern humans lived much earlier than thought (see 02/16/2005 entry).  To him, it means that we need to rethink our assumptions that bigger brains are smarter, according to a report on EurekAlert.  If “Homo sapiens was walking around Africa 200,000 […]

Jurassic Park Revision #76: Bonehead Dinosaurs Not Head-Butters

Pachycephalosaurs, or bone-heads, were dome-headed dinosaurs with skulls nine inches thick.  Interpretation: they rammed each other like rams, or head-butted jeeps filled with hapless human tourists in the movies.  Wrong, reports National Geographic in the March 2005 issue: research by Jack Horner and Mark Goodwin has shown that the thick skulls, surprisingly, could not have […]

Age of Modern Humans Revised, “Depending on Whom You Believe”

The official age of the oldest anatomically modern humans is now 195,000 years, some 65,000 years older than previously thought.  This announcement was made in Nature1 by Ian McDougall, Francis H. Brown and John F. Fleagle, based on revised radiometric dates calculated from sediments surrounding two human skeletons in Ethiopia.  These specimens, named Omo I […]

Fossil Record Reliable, Study Says

A University of Chicago press release declares that the fossil record is reliable.  Susan M. Kidwell studied the record of bivalves as a function of their fragility and deduced that preservability of shells was only a minor factor in their observed abundance.  “In fact, if anything, variations having shells that seemed least likely to be […]

Can Evolution Repeat Itself?

A press release from University of Chicago reported today that “115-million-year-old fossil of a tiny egg-laying mammal thought to be related to the platypus provides compelling evidence of multiple origins of acute hearing in humans and other mammals” (emphasis added in all quotes).  The fossil apparently shows inner-ear bones in the monotreme lineage that supposedly […]

Bat Theory Strikes Out

An international team of biologists set out to write the family history of bats, a story that is “largely unknown,” they admitted in Science.1  They didn’t have much to go on.  “The fossil record is impoverished,” their research confirmed, so they tried to piece together a phylogenetic story by combining all that is known about […]

This Badger Ate Dinosaurs for Breakfast

BBC News claims a new fossil discovery published in Nature,1 a large badger-like carnivorous mammal, ate dinosaurs for lunch.  But then again, who knows what time of day the Cretaceous restaurants were open?     The fossil, another in a series of spectacular finds from the Liaoning Province in China, is creating a sensation, because […]

Anthropologist Claims Humans, Neanderthals, Australopithecines All Variations on One Species

According to a news story in the UK News Telegraph, all fossil hominids, including modern humans, Australopithecines, Neanderthals and the recent Indonesian “hobbit man,” belong to the same species: Homo sapiens.  Reporter Robert Matthews wrote about Maciej Henneberg (U of Adelaide) and his argument, based on skull sizes and body weights for 200 fossil specimens, […]

Human Evolution Falsified

The title of this entry comes from the data, not from the claims being made about it.  The cover story in Cell1 this week has set off a flurry of startling headlines: EurekAlert pronounces, “Evidence that human brain evolution was a special event” and “University of Chicago researchers discovered that humans are a ‘privileged’ evolutionary […]

Paleoanthropologists Fight Tooth and Nail

Ann Gibbons, reporter for Science, seems to enjoy watching the fights about human ancestry.  At Science Now, she began a news item about an alleged fossil human ancestor with a joke: How many paleoanthropologists does it take to locate a molar on the correct side of a fossil jawbone?  The short answer to this joke, […]

Cretaceous Temperature Estimates Point Out Flaws in Climate Models

Nature1 this week described evidence for high temperatures in the Arctic during the Cretaceous that it termed “astounding.”  Based on work by Jenkins et al. that Arctic waters were 15°C, as warm as modern coastal waters off France and Maryland. For a region blanketed in darkness for half of the year, the Arctic Ocean was […]

Introducing the Stretch & Squish Theory of Evolution

Evolution is too slow if theorists rely on single point mutations, say two biologists from U. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who published their ideas in PNAS1 (see summary on EurekAlert).  Instead, evolution proceeds by rapidly distorting, stretching and squishing what is already there, they claim.     They claim that even Darwin knew that […]
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