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Watch This Space:  What, and When, Was the Ediacaran Biota?

Evolutionary paleontologists are understandably very interested in the Ediacaran period (recently added to the geologic column) because, to them, it incorporates “the most ancient complex organisms on Earth.”  As classified, this Precambrian period (dated 580 to 543 million years old) precedes the Cambrian explosion by some 20 million years, yet “remains one of the greatest […]

British Cave Art Wins Admiration

The British are overtaking the French in the ancient cave art competition; National Geographic News reports that “English caves may hold the most elaborate Ice Age cave-art ceiling ever discovered.”  Thought to be 12,000 to 13,000 years old based on radiocarbon results and “stylistic comparison.”  There was some surprise that the art could have survived […]

Plants Found Two Miles Under Greenland Ice

According to a press release from University of Colorado,1 remnants of pine needles, bark and grass have been pulled up in an ice core from two miles under the Greenland ice sheet, between the bottom of the ice sheet and bedrock.  This is the first time plant material has been found under the Greenland ice, […]

T. Rex: I Was a Teenage Monster

The news media quickly latched onto a report in Nature1 that Tyrannosaurus rex had a growth spurt in adolescence.  Dr. Gregory Erickson of Florida State measured growth lines in leg bones and found faster growth between age 14 and 18 on the famous Rex specimen named Sue, says EurekAlert based on info from Florida State […]

So Is Archaeopteryx a Transitional Form, Or Not?

An international team set out to determine if the skull features of Archaeopteryx, the famous fossil bird, indicated whether it was capable of flight.  The answer reported in Nature1 was affirmative: Here we show the reconstruction of the braincase from which we derived endocasts of the brain and inner ear.  These suggest that Archaeopteryx closely […]

Worms Didn’t Evolve for 520 Million Years

J.Y. Chen and team in China have found another Cambrian fossil that exhibits zero evolution for nearly the entire history of life.  The abstract from the Royal Society Proceedings: Biological Sciences1 reports the discovery of three kinds of sipunculan worm near the base of the Cambrian, which all “have striking similarities to modern sipunculans.”  These […]

Cambrian Explosion Explained, or Explained Away?

James Valentine, an authority on early fossils, has just published a new 600-page book on the Cambrian explosion with the Darwinesque title, On the Origin of Phyla (U. of Chicago Press, 2004).  Stefan Bengtson (Swedish Museum of Natural History) reviewed it in the July 29 issue of Nature.1  He points out that “Darwin wisely called […]

Zoo Monkey Walks Upright

For what it’s worth, there’s a story going around about a macaque in an Israeli zoo started walking on its hind legs after a near-death experience (see MSNBC News and picture).  One news source is calling it a missing link, another claiming the strange behavior is due to brain damage. This calls for a monkey […]

New Book Reveals China’s Cambrian Explosion

Nature July 221 has a book review about the first volume in English of the Chengjiang biota of China, where tens of thousands of soft-bodied organisms are preserved in early Cambrian strata.  The book, The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China: The Flowering of Early Animal Life by Xian-Guang Hou et al., is praised by reviewer […]

Earliest Bilaterian Fossil Claimed

Microscopic etchings in rock alleged to be primitive bilaterian fossils have been reported by J.Y. Chen et al. in China.  (Bilateria are organisms displaying symmetry along one axis.)  The report, printed in the July 9 issue of Science,1 dates the fossils at 40-55 million years before the Cambrian.  Erik Stokstad in the same issue2 calls […]

Maybe Neanderthals Were Artists After All

Revised dating of human bones near figurines has cast an assumption about early humans into doubt, reports Nature Science Update.  Aurignacian artefacts, like horse figurines and other carved images, have long been thought to be telltale indicators of modern man.  Vogelherd cave near Ulm, Germany was considered the best example, because sandwiched between modern human […]

Another Hominid Find Rocks the Charts

Another hominid skull dubbed OL 45500 has been reported in Science,1 a juvenile said to belong to Homo erectus.  Its classification is problematic because it exhibits a mosaic of features rather than fitting neatly into an evolutionary sequence.  The scientists state, “Although the cranium represents possibly the smallest adult or near-adult known between 1.7 and […]

Key to Evolution of Culture Suggested

Visualize chimpanzees exercising their antics in the jungle: grooming, screeching at one another, chasing off rivals.  Now shift the scene to human activities in a large city: fans cheering their team at a stadium, an audience applauding a concert, kids screaming on an amusement park roller coaster, a congregation singing hymns at church, students taking […]

Dinos in the News

Three dinosaur finds were reported in the last month: Sauropod:  A new kind of sauropod was found in the Morrison Formation (Jurassic) in Montana, reported National Geographic News.  This kind of dinosaur was unexpected, and suggests an unknown fauna existed in a state known more for its Cretaceous meat-eaters.  The skull of this sauropod had […]

Modern Cavemen Found

National Geographic News has a remarkable true story about some families that lived underground in the darkness and dampness of a cave for nearly two years in recent times.  And now, the rest of the story: they were Jews hiding out from the Nazis. This incredible story of survival in the midst of danger points […]
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