Monday, April 17, 2006
Paleontology in action!!!
First, these pictures...the second one is a fossil skeleton of a long-necked saurian.
The first one, thought, is the picture passed around the world concerning the find. Note the feathers (not found with the bones), and the birdlike claws (not found or in any way in evidence) and finally the beak (not found either. The skull was a normal saurian skull).
Conclusion, the artist's sketch is a wild flight of fancy unrelated to the actual evidence. But then, I think we see that the assertions of the article are much like that of the sketch.
Debbie made a comment about this dinosaur which I want to review (Her post is in bold)
Radar, brilliant! I sent this post to my friends. And you did answer creeper's question. Both creation and evolution are unobservable and untestable. What can be observed are complexity and order that shows purpose and design.
Evolutionists say that the proof of evolution is all the different kinds of life forms and since we live in a "natural world" that evolution just naturally happened. They just have to figure out how. Just find the missing links and it will all fit together, well, naturally.
Almost a year ago I read an article in my local news paper that I found quite amusing so I wrote a letter to the editor about it. The article was about a new dinosaur find near Green River UT. They called it a missing link. Following is the letter I wrote:
Regarding the headline Old bones yielding missing dino link”, I wonder how many people just accept this without question?
Evolutionists need to find transitional forms from one type of animal to another to prove their theory, but there are none, so the links are missing.
They said the creature was “mixed up” and in transition to a new “lifestyle” in eating. How does this happen? Does the diet change before the body form or does the body form change before the diet? Why do they think this creature was changing at all?
The illustration with the article shows a feathered bipedal dinosaur with chicken feet. The artist is giving us the impression that this creature is changing into a bird.
The article didn’t mention finding feathers with the bones; maybe the artist thinks all dinosaurs had feathers. But the paleontologist believes these creatures were changing from lighter, faster, meat eating dinosaurs into bigger, bulkier, plant eating dinosaur forms, not birds.
It seems to me that the artist and the paleontologist are the mixed up ones. D.B.
If any of you want to look up this dinosaur its called Falcarius utahensis.
A Reader responds with questions rather than answers(in italics)
"Evolutionists say that the proof of evolution is all the different kinds of life forms and since we live in a "natural world" that evolution just naturally happened."
This is a bit of a simplification. If you'd like to find out what evolutionary biologists actually say, there are many pretty good books available. Would you like me to suggest one? Of course, perhaps you already know all this! I hope you'll forgive me, and even maybe do me a favor? Could you remind me about the different lines of evidence they see as supporting evolution? I always leave one or two out, would forget my own head if it wasn't attached . . .
"Evolutionists need to find transitional forms from one type of animal to another to prove their theory, but there are none, so the links are missing."
If paleontologists never, ever found any transitional fossils, that certainly would be a little disturbing. Why do you think there are none, Debbie?
"They said the creature was “mixed up” and in transition to a new “lifestyle” in eating. How does this happen? Does the diet change before the body form or does the body form change before the diet? Why do they think this creature was changing at all?"
Excellent questions! How might we find out the answers?
"The article didn’t mention finding feathers with the bones; maybe the artist thinks all dinosaurs had feathers. "
Another good point! Why might the artist think that (at least) some dinosaurs had feathers? More specifically, why might they have thought Falcarius utahensis had feathers? (You are completely right, as far as I can tell, that it was an assumption).
"But the paleontologist believes these creatures were changing from lighter, faster, meat eating dinosaurs into bigger, bulkier, plant eating dinosaur forms, not birds."
Agreed! What led them to believe this?
Questions being answered by questions? So I went ahead and downloaded the original (I think) National Geographic article. My comments are in italics.
"Bizarre" New Dinosaur Shows Evolution to Plant Eating, Study Says
for National Geographic News
May 4, 2005
No, it doesn't do that at all. No evidence of evolution to or from another creature will be presented.
First noticed by a black market fossil dealer, a new species found in a Utah boneyard may be a missing link in dinosaurs' trend toward vegetarianism. (See pictures of the new dinosaur.)
Paleontologists showed their gratitude by having the guy tossed in jail and subjected to a heavy fine. Nice guys...
The 125-million-year-old fossils, from the dinosaur Falcarius utahensis, were discovered in a graveyard of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. Though it may have eaten meat, Falcarius's teeth and guts show the first signs of the species's change toward a leafy, green diet, said James Kirkland, a paleontologist at the Utah Geological Survey in Salt Lake City.
No reliable dating evidence is presented.
"We can see definitive features of eating plants and know its descendents were much more full-time plant-eaters," Kirkland said.
Where is the evidence for these two assertions?
The newly discovered creature was likely cloaked in hairlike feathers and walked on two legs. Adults measured about 13 feet (4 meters) long, head to tail. They stood about 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) tall and had sharp, curved, 4-inch-long (10-centimeter-long) claws.
No feathers were discovered, so this hairlike feather remark is a product of the writer's imagination. Besides that, the animal is not in any way designed for any kind of flight, nor are the bones similar to bird bones.
Kirkland and his colleagues from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. report the discovery in tomorrow's issue of the science journal Nature.
Falcarius was a member of the therizinosaurs. These feathered dinosaurs with birdlike hips are considered among the weirdest ever discovered.
Some kinds of dinosaurs have been found with feather marks. None of their bone structures are truly birdlike. There is no evidence presented to show that these particular creatures had feathers.
Until recently, paleontologists argued over where the beasts fit on the evolutionary tree. At first, they were considered giant sea turtles, and then for years they were thought to be long-necked sauropod dinosaurs.
Hmm, evolving into a turtle or a bird, which is it???
"In the last decade or so we've come to understand that therizinosaurs evolved from a raptorlike group of dinosaurs," said Lindsay Zanno, a graduate student in geology at the University of Utah and a co-author of the new study.
"..but we have no proof of this, it just sounds good to us."
Falcarius, Zanno added, is the most primitive therizinosaur yet discovered and unequivocally demonstrates that the group evolved from Velociraptor-like ancestors.
To whom? What evidence backs this up?
Velociraptor was the fleet-footed, meat-eating dinosaur popularized in the movie Jurassic Park. The new dinosaur, Falcarius, did not descend directly from Velociraptor. Rather, Kirkland said, they are both descendants of a yet undiscovered common ancestor.
Paleontologists believe the first dinosaur was a small-bodied, lightly built, fleet-footed predator.
Early on in dinosaur evolution, two major groups shifted to plant-based diets. But the fossil record of how dinosaurs went vegetarian, until now, was scant. Also, the plant-eaters' relationship to their meat-eating ancestors was unknown.
Thomas Holtz is a paleontologist at the University of Maryland in College Park. He said the Falcarius fossils are a clearer window into the shift from meat eating to plant eating than is available for equivalent transitions within other dinosaur groups. Prior to the Falcarius discovery, the likely intermediate forms between meat eaters and plant eaters "are either not yet discovered or are very fragmentary and so not recognized as such," Holtz said. That's what makes Falcarius so rare.
The Falcarius fossils show this transition in action among a group of dinosaurs, the birdlike meat-eating dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period (about 140 million years ago). The finding allows paleontologists insight into long-nagging questions of evolution.
No evidence for any transition in action has been revealed up to now.
"If you're going to take a Velociraptor-type dinosaur and make a large-bodied, lumbering, bizarre-looking plant eater, what is it you need to do? What parts of the body need to change and how?" Zanno said.
Among the evidence for a dietary transition are teeth that look like tiny birch or elm leaves, a shape good for shredding plant material and shared with all other plant-eating dinosaurs, Kirkland said. In addition, the pelvis bone is expanded toward the side, a sign consistent with the larger gut size required to digest leafy greens.
The skeleton does not back up the second statement. The teeth are that of a possible omnivore but no certain evidence is presented here, either. The pelvis bone is bigger since the animal itself is bigger.
"To digest plants is more difficult than to digest meat," Kirkland said. "Plant eaters have big digestive systems to process plant material."
Later therizinosaurs, Zanno said, had shorter tails that balanced their more upright posture for eating leaves off trees. They also had shorter legs that better supported their heavier frames and shoulder joints that allowed the arms to reach branches above the head.
This doesn't sound the like path of evolution towards a bird.
But why go vegetarian? Kirkland said paleontologists can only speculate. But the dietary shift represented by Falcarius coincides with the appearance of the first flowering plants in the fossil record, she said.
Paleontologists working in China and Mongolia have been excavating therizinosaurs for about 50 years, accounting for a dozen species. Then in the late 1990s Kirkland, with Douglas Wolfe of Arizona's Mesa Southwest Museum, discovered the first recognized therizinosaur in North America, a species named Nothronychus.
Nothronychus, which was found in New Mexico, was dated to about 90 million years ago—significantly younger than the oldest therizinosaurs from Asia. Paleontologists reasoned that the group originated in Asia and used a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia to populate North America.
Falcarius, however, is 125 million years old, as old as Beipiaosaurus, the oldest known therizinosaur from Asia, which was preserved with feathers. According to Zanno, Falcarius is also more primitive than Beipiaosaurus. Also, some evidence suggests that 125 million years ago the land bridge with Alaska did not exist.
"We have to change our thinking," Zanno said. "It's possible [that therizinosaurs] may have evolved in North America and spread through Europe to Asia."
According to Kirkland, "anywhere in the whole Northern Hemisphere is up for grabs, and Europe is clearly the migratory route versus Alaska. People have a hard time remembering Alaska didn't exist" 125 million years ago.
Holtz agreed that this discovery suggests that early therizinosaurs migrated through Europe instead of over the land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. "I would suspect that Falcarius, or a dinosaur very similar to it, might one day be found in England," he said.
Kirkland and colleagues have excavated more than 1,700 Falcarius fossils at a previously overlooked, 2-acre (0.8-hectare) site at the base of the Cedar Mountain rock formation in east central Utah.
Gee, I wonder what would suddenly bury 1,700 Falcarius and enable them to be preserved?
The site was discovered by a fossil hunter who was selling the bones illegally on the black market. After he discovered parts of Falcarius's distinctive neck, he realized he had something important and turned over the site to paleontologists for further research.
"We're very fortunate he came forward. We've all benefited from that," Kirkland said. "But he did spend five months in jail and paid a [U.S.] $15,000 fine. He may be the first person to ever go to jail for fossil theft on public land."
A second mass mortality site was discovered in the area by Celina and Marina Saurez, twins who are geology graduate students at Temple University in Philadelphia. The pair believes both sites are associated with a spring.
Kirkland said several explanations could explain the mass mortality at the springs, including drought, toxic gases, or botulinum (a bacterial toxin). The dinosaurs congregated in large numbers at the springs, at least periodically.
Right, and one thing we see in nature is sudden burial of thousands of animals in the vicinity of springs, right?
Regardless of how the dinosaurs died, Zanno, the University of Utah graduate student, said the site—which contains the bones of babies, juveniles, and adults—will likely be the best place for therizinosaur research for centuries to come.
"We'll be able to do really cool stuff, like determine how fast the animals grew, see at what age they reached maturity. Are there physical differences between babies and adults, differences between males and females? How much variation is there in the species," she said. "These are future research questions."
Why research? Speculation and just-so stories have been the method to present this fossil to the world so far. Might as well just make something else up.