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
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
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
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
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
"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
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 (emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs /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
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."