April 2006


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Louis Proyect <[log in to unmask]>
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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 6 Apr 2006 11:38:51 -0400
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The Sopranos: T-Rex and the Garden of Eden
This was pretty hysterical. On HBO's The Sopranos, while Tony is recovering 
from a gunshot wound, he was visited by an Evangelical-Bob Brewster-armed 
with Chuck Colson book-told him that Dinosaurs lived with people and 
evolution is the agent of the Devil. Tony who is starting to look into the 
after life because of his near death experience is fairly receptive to the 


Brewster: Evolution, which is Satan's plan to deny God. Evolution and 
salvation are mutually exclusive.

Christopher analyses the situation in his typical fashion.

Christopher: What's he saying? There were Dinosaurs back with Adam and Eve?

Tony: I guess.

Christopher : No way. T-Rex in the Garden of Eden-Adam and Eve would be 
running all the time-scared shitless, but the Bible says it was paradise.


NY Times, April 6, 2006
Fossil Called Missing Link From Sea to Land Animals

Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish, a large 
scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought missing link 
in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs 
on land.

In two reports today in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by 
Neil H. Shubin of the University of Chicago say they have uncovered several 
well-preserved skeletons of the fossil fish in sediments of former 
streambeds in the Canadian Arctic, 600 miles from the North Pole.

The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish, 
four to nine feet long. But on closer examination, the scientists found 
telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still 
a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals  and 
is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and 
eventually humans.

In the fishes' forward fins, the scientists found evidence of limbs in the 
making. There are the beginnings of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and 
shoulders. The fish also had a flat skull resembling a crocodile's, a neck, 
ribs and other parts that were similar to four-legged land animals known as 

Other scientists said that in addition to confirming elements of a major 
transition in evolution, the fossils were a powerful rebuttal to religious 
creationists, who have long argued that the absence of such transitional 
creatures are a serious weakness in Darwin's theory.

The discovery team called the fossils the most compelling examples yet of 
an animal that was at the cusp of the fish-tetrapod transition. The fish 
has been named Tiktaalik roseae, at the suggestion of elders of Canada's 
Nunavut Territory. Tiktaalik (pronounced tic-TAH-lick) means "large shallow 
water fish."

"The origin of limbs," Dr. Shubin's team wrote, "probably involved the 
elaboration and proliferation of features already present in the fins of 
fish such as Tiktaalik."

In an interview, Dr. Shubin, an evolutionary biologist, let himself go. 
"It's a really amazing, remarkable intermediate fossil," he said. "It's 
like, holy cow."

Two other paleontologists, commenting on the find in a separate article in 
the journal, said that a few other transitional fish had been previously 
discovered from approximately the same Late Devonian time period, 385 
million to 359 million years ago. But Tiktaalik is so clearly an 
intermediate "link between fishes and land vertebrates," they said, that it 
"might in time become as much an evolutionary icon as the proto-bird 
Archaeopteryx," which bridged the gap between reptiles (probably dinosaurs) 
and today's birds.

The writers, Erik Ahlberg of Uppsala University in Sweden and Jennifer A. 
Clack of the University of Cambridge in England, are often viewed as rivals 
to Dr. Shubin's team in the search for intermediate species in the 
evolution from fish to the first animals to colonize land.

H. Richard Lane, director of paleobiology at the National Science 
Foundation, said in a statement, "These exciting discoveries are providing 
fossil 'Rosetta Stones' for a deeper understanding of this evolutionary 
milestone  fish to land-roaming tetrapods."

The science foundation and the National Geographic Society were among the 
financial supporters of the research. Besides Dr. Shubin, the principal 
discoverers were Edward B. Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in 
Philadelphia and Farish A. Jenkins Jr., a Harvard evolutionary biologist. 
Casts of the fossils will be on view at the Science Museum of London.

Michael J. Novacek, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural 
History in Manhattan, who was not involved in the research, said: "Based on 
what we already know, we have a very strong reason to think tetrapods 
evolved from lineages of fishes. This may be a critical phase in that 
transition that we haven't had before. A good fossil cuts through a lot of 
scientific argument."

Dr. Shubin's team played down the fossil's significance in the raging 
debate over Darwinian theory, which is opposed mainly by some conservative 
Christians in this country, but other scientists were not so reticent. They 
said this should undercut the argument that there is no evidence in the 
fossil record of one kind of creature becoming another kind.

One creationist site on the Web ( /evid1.htm) 
declares that "there are no transitional forms," adding: "For example, not 
a single fossil with part fins, part feet has been found. And this is true 
between every major plant and animal kind."

Dr. Novacek responded: "We've got Archaeopteryx, an early whale that lived 
on land, and now this animal showing the transition from fish to tetrapod. 
What more do we need from the fossil record to show that the creationists 
are flatly wrong?"

Duane T. Gish, a retired official of the Institute for Creation Research in 
San Diego, said, "This alleged transitional fish will have to be evaluated 
carefully." But he added that he still found evolution "questionable 
because paleontologists have yet to discover any transitional fossils 
between complex invertebrates and fish, and this destroys the whole 
evolutionary story."

Dr. Shubin and Dr. Daeschler began their search on Ellesmere Island in 
1999. They were attracted by a map in a geology textbook showing an 
abundance of Devonian rocks exposed and relatively easy to explore. At that 
time, the land had a warm climate: it was part of a supercontinent 
straddling the Equator.

It was not until July 2004, Dr. Shubin said, that "we hit the jackpot." 
They found several of the fishes in a quarry, their skeletons largely 
intact and in three dimensions. The large skull had the sharp teeth of a 
predator. It was attached to a neck, which allowed the fish the unfishlike 
ability to swivel its head.

If the animal spent any time out of water, said Dr. Jenkins, of Harvard, it 
needed a true neck that allowed the head to move independently on the body.

Embedded in the pectoral fins were bones that compare to the upper arm, 
forearm and primitive parts of the hand of land-living animals. The joints 
of the fins appeared to be capable of functioning for movement on land, a 
case of a fish improvising with its evolved anatomy. In all likelihood, the 
scientists said, Tiktaalik flexed its proto-limbs mainly on the floor of 
streams and might have pulled itself up on the shore for brief stretches.

In their report, the scientists concluded that Tiktaalik was an 
intermediate between the fishes Eusthenopteron and Panderichthys, which 
lived 385 million years ago, and early tetrapods. The known early tetrapods 
are Acanthostega and Ichthyostega, about 365 million years ago.

Tiktaalik, Dr. Shubin said, is "both fish and tetrapod, which we sometimes 
call a fishapod."