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Paleontology News Updates

Please Read On for Paleontology News
  • Is the Latest "Feathered Dinosaur" Actually a Secondarily Flightless Bird? MSNBC recently had an article titled "Fine-feathered dino sported bizarre bird tail," reporting on the find of Epidexipteryx hui, a "pigeon-sized dinosaur that lived more than 100 million years ago [that] sported four ribbon-like tail feathers." One of the paper's authors states, "Although this dinosaur cannot be the direct ancestor for birds, it is one of the dinosaurs that have the closest phylogenetic relationship to birds." The article contains other quotes with the usual Darwinist rhetoric like, “[t]his find confirms the link between dinosaurs and birds.” But are other interpretations possible? Unreported in the media is the fact that the paper contains language directly hinting that Epidexipteryx hui could also be "interpreted as secondarily flightless." In other words, Epidexipteryx hui may not be a "feathered dinosaur" at all, but instead was a bird that lost its ability to fly while retaining feathers. There are various well-known modern-day examples of secondarily flightless birds, e.g. the well-known ostrich. In fact, similar interpretations have already been made for other alleged "feathered dinos."

    Bird evolution expert Alan Feduccia believes that "Caudipteryx and Protoarchaeopteryx, in fact, are replete with features of secondarily flightless Mesozoic sauriurine birds…" (The Origin and Evolution of Birds, pg. 396, Yale University Press, 1999.) Likewise a Nature paper from 2000, co-authored by five scientists, suggested that "Caudipteryx was a secondarily flightless, post-Archaeopteryx, cursorial bird" because "it [is] a striking coincidence that the only unambiguously feathered theropod was also the only known theropod likely to have utilized locomotory mechanisms identical to those of cursorial birds." Feduccia writes:
    Given the now substantial evidence that certain taxa once thought to be dinosaurs (e.g. Caudipteryx, Protarchaeopteryx, and the Oviraptosauria; Maryanska et al. 2002) are most likely secondarily flightless birds, and the new hypothesis that certain dinosaurs were secondarily flightless descendants of Mesozoic birds (Paul 2002), we must now carefully consider the possibility that there may have been a number of radiations of secondarily flightless Mesozoic birds that evolved morphologies quite similar to theropod dinosaurs.
    It seems that the "feathered dino" interpretation may be driven by an attempt to fit the data to the standard evolutionary paradigm, not the data. Unfortunately, the view that these fossils are not feathered dinos but are rather secondarily flightless birds is a possibility that is not being communicated to the public in the media. (11/6/08)

  • More turtle fossils: stasis confirmed: This past February, Australian paleontologists announced their findings of portions of 12 different turtle fossils believed to be from ~110 million years ago near Boulia in western Queensland. Regarding how much these fossil turtles resemble modern sea turtles, Paleontologist Ben Kear said, “For all intents and purposes, if you were to see one (fossil) they would look basically the same as sea turtles do today,” (as quoted in
    110 Million Year Old Sea Turtle Exemplifies Stasis

    Pictured above is a picture of an ancient sea turtle from The Daily Times.
    This finding is consistent with the ID claim that we are more likely to find stasis in the fossil record, rather than large-scale evolutionary change between taxa. For those interested in more examples of fossil evidence, see our article on the Problems with Evolutionary Explanations of the Fossil Record. (4/13/05)

  • Asian Marsupials Challenge the Biogeography of Evolution: A recent fossil find the oldest marsupial remains present a "paradox" for evolution and biogeography. The fact that most marsupial species are found in Australia is often cited as evidence that biogeography supports evolution, as marsupials are thought to have evolved, and diversified there alone. This find challenges the notion that marsupials evolved in Australia, as the oldest marsupial is found in China. Under an evolutionary scenario, this would place the origin of marsupials in the northern hemisphere. The traditional evolutionary story has gone like this: Marsupials evolved in the southern supercontinent of Gondwanaland, which supposedly included what is now Australia, South America, Antartica, and Africa. This fossil find puts marsupials in the north at a time evolutionists used to think they weren't yet there. This means that marsupial history is not a biogeographically simple story that supports southern evolution. Can evolutionary theory overcome this find--sure--it just makes the evolutionistary "all marsupials are in the south, therefore they clearly evolved there together" story a bit less compelling. As one of the evolutonist paleontologists who found the fossil stated, "[i]t's an interesting paradox ... If you look across the world, South America and Australia, you find the present-day marsupials in great abundance and diversity. But those are not the original points where they evolved."

  • Oldest Fossils or Oldest Lab-Reproducable Minerals? The oldest fossils have typically been held to be microfossils of bacteria, about 3.5 billion years old. A Science news report, 'Microfossils' Made Easy," states that some scientists are now challenging the legitimacy of those fossils, claiming they have reproduced minerals looking like the fossils in the lab. There is controversy over the claim as one scientist who thinks they are fossils stated, "The resemblance is superficial," (William Schopf) whereas organic geochemist George Cody says the lab-produced minerals "look remarkably 'lifelike.' " This is an ongoing controversy has important implications for the naturalistic model regarding the amount of time it took for life to originate on earth. (11/14/03)

  • Spiders Haven't Changed Through Millions of Years: A recent BBC news aticle, "US fossil spins web of intrigue," shows that spiders have barely changed in over 300 million years. A picture accompanying the fossil has a very spider-looking arachnid that is thought to have possibly spun silk. Perhaps this "stasis of species" shows that species don't tend to change much even over long periods of time, questioning claims of macroevolutionary change. (11/13/03)

  • Dinos, Birds, and Evolutionary Assumptions: A recent CNN news article, "Volcanoes may have choked Earth, helped dinosaurs," assumes that birds and dinosaurs were related to conclude that oxygen levels were low at the time of the Permian Extinction. The Permian Extinction, which is said to have happened about 200 Ma, is supposedly one of the worst extinctions in the history of life. The author reasons that because dinosaurs survived this extinction, they must have been good at breathing in periods of low oxygen, and therefore passed this trait on to birds. If true, one wonders why this adaptation didn't help dinos survive the K-T extinction at 65 Ma? In any case, the case is purely circumstantial because he assumes that Dinos were good breathers merely because birds are, and birds are assumed to be descended from dinos. This shows how evolutionary assumptions, if wrong, could lead to theories which are far off-base. (11/3/03)

  • Oldest Vertebrate Fossil: The oldest claimed vertebrate fossil has been found--a fish-like organism from 560 million years ago reports this news article. Does this fossil show that the Cambrian explosion was not so explosive? This single fossil does nothing to establish from what over 30 phyla came into existence within a 5-10 million year period some 30 million years later. (10/22/03)

  • Fossil Marine Microorganisms Show Explosive Evolution: A paperin PNAS (September 22, 2003, 10.1073/pnas.2035132100) indicates that microscopic marine animals, foraminifera, arose in an explosive radiation as recorded in the fossil record: "we demonstrate that a large radiation of nonfossilized unilocular Foraminifera preceded the diversification of multilocular [multi-chambered] lineages during the Carboniferous. Within this radiation, similar test [shell] morphologies and wall types developed several times independently." Foraminifera have been used by evolutionists as evidence of evolutionary history because of their supposedly clear record of evolution. However this study finds that "morphological variations in some lineages by far exceed the traditional morphology-based taxonomy" indicating that "evolutionary plasticity among early Foraminifera makes their present morphology-based classification of limited value." They conclude that "the thecate or agglutinated walls in unilocular Foraminifera are convergent features [sic], and that the simple evolutionary progression from one to the other, as envisaged by earlier authors, did not occur." The supposedly clear story of marine "foram" evolution appears to be a muddy one. (9/22/03)

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