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Name-Calling at the Human Evolution Meeting

As predicted earlier this month (see 09/03/2004 commentary), Lucy’s lovers were not going to take her demotion lying down.  Proponents of Orrorin claim their 6 million year old rival walked upright millions of years before the 2-4 million year old australopithecines, and even had a gait more human-like than Lucy.  To Ann Gibbons, reporting in […]

Scientists Try to Read Neandertal Minds

If dead men tell no tales, living ones certainly do.  Most of us have trouble reading one another’s minds when staring face to face, but some paleoanthropologists, with nothing but skeletons and a few stone tools and burial sites to look at, have no hesitation in reading the Neandertal mind.  Bruce Bower writes in Science […]

Classifying Eukaryotes Easier than Evolving Them

If you like stories with surprise endings, check out an otherwise boring paper by two Canadian evolutionary biologists, Alistair G. B. Simpson and Andrew A. Roger, in the Sept. 7 issue of Current Biology.1  Their subject is the real “kingdoms” of eukaryotes (that’s all creatures with nuclei, including plants, animals, and a host of single-celled […]

Inferring Dinosaur Family Life from Bones

Observation: a jumble of dinosaur bones in China.  Conclusion: some dinosaurs showed tender loving care to their young.  This is the gist of a paper in Nature this week (Sept. 9),1 reported also on Nature Science Update.     Discerning behavior from bones is an art, but these bones of 34 psittacosaurs from Liaoning, China […]

Step Aside, Lucy; Your Distant Ancestor Walked Upright, Researchers Claim

Penn State researchers are trying to scoop the coveted title of “discoverers of the first upright-walking hominid” with a CT scan of their champion, Orrorin (see 02/23/2001 headline).  They have the ball and socket joint of the specimen (thought to be like a chimpanzee) and a bit of the bony neck that connects the ball […]

Genes Fail to Reveal Evolutionary Pattern in European Mammals

One would think an examination of DNA from fossils would track the animal’s geographical distribution as they evolved.  However, a study reported in PNAS1 failed to find any correlation in European mammals after the last glaciation.  Hofreiter et al. report: Here, we analyze mtDNA sequences from cave bears, brown bears, cave hyenas, and Neandertals in […]

Extinctions Too Complex for Simple Stories

Impact theories of extinction are fighting for their own survival.  A commentary in PNAS1 warns that extinction theories are more complex than can be handled by a single event, like a meteor impact.  At best, they might be invoked as the coup-de-grace in a series of situations.  Hermann Pfefferkorn reveals the complexities in the Permian […]

Land Dinosaurs Buried with Fish

Since dinosaurs are icons of evolutionary TV shows and even children’s cartoons about prehistoric evolving life, it may come as a surprise to some that evolutionists do not own the dinosaurs; even the name dinosaur was invented by a creationist, Richard Owen.  Last month, a creationist dinosaur dig in Montana1 was a monstrous success.  Joe […]

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 […]
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