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Category Archive: Fossils

Aug 02 2012

A Devonian hexapod

Strudiella

It always seems to be the case that there are gaps in the fossil record just where things get interesting — probably with good reason, that forms in transition will be relatively rare. One such gap is the period where insects first emerge and begin to conquer the terrestrial world, a period called the arthropod …

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Jul 15 2012

Stop looking like that!

trexsex

I don’t mind the portrayals of dinosaurs in coitus, but look at those two: did they have to have such lecherous grins? The disturbing thing is that that is the same expression they’d have on their face when they were ripping up a hadrosaur. Being a monkey-faced primate with a dependence on facial expressions really …

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Jul 11 2012

Swimming in the Cambrian

musclefibers

If you ever get a chance, spend some time looking at fish muscles in a microscope. Larval zebrafish are perfect; they’re transparent and you can trace all the fibers, so you can see everything. The body musculature of fish is most elegantly organized into repeating blocks of muscle along the length of the animal, each …

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Apr 25 2012

Modular gene networks as agents of evolutionary novelty

A while back, I told you all about this small piece of the biochemistry of the fly eye — the pathways that make the brown and red pigments that color the eye. I left it with a question: if even my abbreviated summary revealed considerable complexity, how could this pathway evolve? Changing anything produces a …

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Dec 29 2011

Protists, not animals

tianzhushania

I’ve written about the spectacular phospatized embryos of the Doushantuo formation before. It’s a collection of exceptionally well preserved small multicellular organisms, so well preserved that we can even look at cellular organelles. And they’re pre-Cambrian, as much as 630 million years old. They’ve been interpreted as fossilized embryos for which we have no known …

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Dec 20 2011

The eyes of Anomalocaris

anomalocaris_eyes

Look with your puny camera eyes! Some new specimens of Anomalocaris, the spectacular Cambrian predator, have been discovered in South Australia. These fossils exhibit well-preserved eyes, allowing us to see that the bulbous stalked balls on their heads were actually fairly typical compound eyes, like those of modern insects. Anomalocaris eyes from the Emu Bay …

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Dec 15 2011

Creationist abuse of cuttlefish chitin

A few weeks ago, PLoS One published a paper on the observation of preserved chitin in 34 million year old cuttlebones. Now the Institute for Creation Research has twisted the science to support their belief that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. It was all so predictable. It’s a game they play, …

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Oct 10 2011

Traces of a Triassic Kraken?

shonisaur

At first I thought this discovery was really cool, because I love the idea of ancient giant cephalopods creating art and us finding the works now. But then, reality sinks in: that’s a genuinely, flamboyantly extravagant claim, and the evidence better be really, really solid. And it’s not. It’s actually rather pathetic. It consists of …

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Sep 16 2011

Showoff

ammonite

Emily Baldry is six years old. Emily has a little plastic shovel. Emily dug up a 160 million year old cephalopod. I’m 54, I have a little plastic spoon, and I’m eyeing the backyard. There used to be cephalopods swimming around in this neighborhood…of course, there were also some annoying glaciers that scoured the landscape. …

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Sep 03 2011

Not like a worm?

Ann Coulter is back to whining about evolution again, and this week she focuses on fossils. It’s boring predictable stuff: there are no transitional fossils, she says. We also ought to find a colossal number of transitional organisms in the fossil record – for example, a squirrel on its way to becoming a bat, or …

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